Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone: Dr Ibrahim Thorle, "Someone must take the bold step"

FREETOWN, 30 April 2007 (IRIN) - Dr Ibrahim Thorle, gynecologist and medical director of Sierra Leone's biggest maternity hospital, talks about the difficulties he encounters trying to save the lives of pregnant women in a country with little medicine, few doctors and ageing equipment.

"Except if you really want to help your people, you need not be here. Most of my colleagues who I completed my medical studies with have all left this country for better paying jobs outside because the profession does not pay much for a doctor who works at a government hospital.

When I travel and meet my colleagues they only tell me, 'What are doing in Sierra Leone?' I tell them continuously, 'I just want to be of help to my people.' Nobody can make Sierra Leone a good place better than we the Sierra Leoneans.

It is difficult for us to work - no equipment, medical supplies and medicines to treat our patients. We constrain ourselves to work just in the service of our people. The working environment now as a government doctor is not conducive but we cannot abandon our people to die.

They need our service. Everybody, especially qualified professionals, cannot leave the country. Someone must take the bold step to remain. My country, Sierra Leone, is at a crucial stage after the war and the help of all professionals is needed the most.

I am facing a difficult and challenging period of my medical career. When I started working at this hospital in 1984 upon the completion of my studies, things actually worked well at this Princess Christian Maternity Hospital. We had sufficient medical supplies and drugs and I was happy doing my job, but now things have turned the opposite.

There are not enough medical supplies to work with and our patients mostly complain. Can I leave them? No. I have to provide an alternative source of medicine [bought in private pharmacies] and I have to remain and comfort them. That is the work of a doctor in dealing with patients. When we have more supplies then we can do more work to save the lives of mothers and children.

Now, salaries are not enough and cannot even match the high cost of living. I hope and pray that one day things will get better for the doctors, where there would be a political will on the part of the government to scale the salaries up and provide sufficient supplies for the hospitals. When this happens the issues of high infant and maternal mortality in our country would be a matter of the past."