Progress in our Health Link
It has been a challenging start for the OWL health link but we have managed to find quite a few positives from the adversity of a global pandemic.
Sierra Leone responded to Covid-19 in an impressively immediate and robust way that was successful in keeping the numbers of Covid related deaths to a minimum. They are continuing to be vigilant and as a result have just been taken off the ‘red list’ for travel which means many of our friends can now travel home more freely.
Through the increased use of internet platforms such as Zoom, the UK and Bo OWL Health Link committees have been able to keep in regular contact, discussing the priorities for health care improvement in Bo and the best way to go about supporting that.
One of the main areas highlighted as potentially improving the health care facilities within Peripheral Health Units (PHU’s) was a functioning laboratory, enabling faster, more accurate diagnoses of common diseases, particularly TB, leading to correct treatment and faster recovery times. Offering this service within the PHU environment also encourages people to seek help earlier leading to more effective use of medications available, also relieving the pressure on Bo government hospital.#We were lucky enough to be in receipt of a small legacy earlier this year and, with the incredible enthusiasm and drive from one of our visiting committee members – Johannes, used it to convert the old labour room at Yemoh Town Health Clinic to a basic laboratory, enabling these tests to start taking place.
We have been working with the District Health Management Team (DHMT) to try and establish government support to meet the basic running needs of the lab. This is still an ongoing process and we are looking to review the running of this facility before rolling this idea out to other PHUs that have been earmarked by the DHMT for improvement.
However, we do receive regular updates from Lansana Deen, the Chief Medical Officer at the clinic, on the use of the new labour ward facilities and this little one was one of twins!
Another encouraging report was on the continuing availability of an ambulance. Getting people to the right help at the right time can mean the difference between life and death. A baby who had to be resuscitated at birth, and continued to struggle, was transferred recently.
Looking to the future of the OWL Health Link there are several avenues that we are looking at and discussing in more detail. The OWL ethos is based on friendship and sharing of information and skills and we are keen that the health branch should retain this. We are therefore going to be initially looking at using Zoom to deliver training sessions on topics requested by the health staff of Yemoh Town Health Clinic (and other PHU staff), Bo government hospital and Bo children’s hospital. As Helena is a midwife the first sessions will be based on dealing with obstetric and neonatal emergencies but we will be looking to expand this to other disciplines, in particular paediatrics and tropical diseases. Our UK committee has been discussing this idea of rolling out training to other relevant areas with Jayne Blacklay, from the governing board of Warwick hospital, who has been very positive about this idea.
Helena is Health Coordinator for OWL. She is a midwife with years of experience training midwives in Sierra Leone.