Thursday, 22 March 2018 – The Chairperson of TANGO John Charles Njie held a meeting with members of the Gambia Association of Resident Doctors led by their president Dr. Ebrima Bah on Thursday March 22 to seek possible ways of resolving the on-going impasse between the Association and the Government. In welcoming the members to TANGO head office in Fajara, Mr. Njie expressed the concern of TANGO on the on-going sit-down strike by doctors and TANGO’s commitment to finding a lasting solution to the issue. He said TANGO has decided to engage the doctors directly in order to obtain first-hand information about the situation and thereby determine possible ways of intervention.
The doctors informed TANGO that the sit-down strike was not about their ego or in disregard of their oath to serve the sick and the country. Rather they embarked on this action purposely to push for institutional and operational reforms within the health delivery system which has been in dire conditions for years. They noted that as soon as Pres. Barrow took office, the Medical and Dental Association had written to him in March 2017 to express the challenges and offer suggestions for improvements within the health system. The doctors noted that they had also engaged the Minister of Health and Social Welfare early in her appointment with concrete suggestions for changes within the health delivery system. Yet for over one year there has been no changes only to have the Minister now falsely accuse young doctors, without basis, for corruption in the health sector. The doctors lamented the misinformed comments of the Minister which they noted has the potential to damage the trust between doctors and patients.
Since the outbreak of their strike, they narrated that they had separate meetings with the parliamentary Select Committee on Health, the Secretary General and Head of civil Service as well as the Vice President. The Vice President promised that by the end of the day Wednesday March 21 there will be a proper apology and from there they will wait to hear from the Doctors. The doctors noted that contrary to public perception, they are not affected by egotistic considerations, rather they are compelled to take action because of the misleading comments of the Minister against the backdrop of the pending reforms that they have been seeking since the coming to power of the new government and the appointment of the Minister of Health to no avail. They noted that while everyone is at home, it is doctors who stay up the whole night taking care of the sick yet they lack the necessary tools to do proper diagnosis and the required medication in order to reduce the pain and save the lives of patients.
In response, Mr. Njie extended empathy to the doctors and all civil servants working under unfavourable conditions to deliver services to the nation and pledged TANGO’s readiness to engage the relevant stakeholders to address the situation. The meeting expressed hope that the Vice President would succeed in obtaining a proper apology from the Minister which will be followed by constructive engagements on institutional reforms. The meeting agreed that doctors will end their strike on receipt of this apology and retraction of the Minister’s unfortunate statement and a roadmap established by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare for concrete institutional, administrative and operational reforms. Meantime TANGO will seek engagement with the relevant government institutions with a bid to addressing the issue which is fast becoming unbearable for the country.