Written by Joseph S. Sherman, Washington, DC
Sierra Leone once known as the Athens of West Africa has produced many professionals and intelligentsias within the sub-region. However, the political manipulation of certain individuals and political influences from outside has left the country in the doldrums and has been labeled one of the poorest and under-developed countries in the world. The brain drain and skepticism of professionals to see brighter futures have left Sierra Leoneans scavenging for survival in the Diasporas.
However, the realization of the dream to established in Sierra Leone the first Medical Center that will provide programs like Health Screenings, Educational Development, Pharmaceuticals, Tertiary Care Expertise, Maternal Child Health, Diabetic Teaching and Treatment, Wellness Education Hypertension Screening and Education and the training of nurses was echoed by Dr. Victor Herry, an America trained physician who said in an interview that the Sierra Leone and Africa as a whole don’t need to send patients abroad for treatment if there are institutions and facilities that will cater to the needs of patients within Sierra Leone and Africa as a whole.
In my maiden interview with Dr. Victor Herry, I asked him to tell us about his background as a medical doctor.
Dr. Herry: My name is Dr. Victor Herry a trained medical doctor from Howard University in Washington, DC. I operate the Clinton Medical Health Center in Clinton, Maryland.
J.S: In a short time you will be establishing the West Africa Medical Center in Sierra Leone; can you tell us more about the Medical Center and the services you will be offering to your clients?
Dr. Herry: The West Africa Medical Center which will be established in Sierra Leone is an actualization of the dreams I have for Sierra Leone and West Africa. It is pathetic to see that medical cases that are treatable in Sierra Leone and West Africa have to be referred in Europe, America and other parts of the world because institutions and facilities that will address those cases are lacking. However, with the establishment of the West Africa Medical Center in Sierra Leone many medical cases which are once referred abroad will be taking care of. Of course cases that need to be referred abroad will be evaluated and necessary recommendations made to address those cases for experts abroad to take care of. On the issues of services, the West Africa Medical Center will offer Health Screenings, Educational Development, Pharmaceuticals, Tertiary Care Expertise, Maternal Child Health, Diabetic Teaching and Treatment, Wellness Education Hypertension Screening and Education, and training of nurses.
J.S: What are the Key Challenges in establishing the West Africa Medical Center in Sierra Leone?
Dr. Herry: The environment of healthcare changes rapidly and continuously. It is an environment loaded with complex structures. Healthcare encompasses many areas including acute care / hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, long-term care facilities, physicians’ offices, home health agencies, and managed care organizations. The most noteworthy of these is constant power outages to operate the Medical Center in Sierra Leone. However, with the efforts of the President of Sierra Leone to ensure that power becomes a priority in the country, the West Africa Medical Center will ensure that the needs of the clients are met without any hindrance. Also Medical Centers have become large, complex organizations and technology has advanced at an almost unbelievable rate. So, with the state of the art medical center which will be built in Sierra Leone issues of rapid technological development will constantly be addressed. Perhaps the biggest challenge facing healthcare industry is the constant change. More than any other industry, healthcare is perpetual change and healthcare executives must remain flexible to be successful.
J.S: Did you receive support from the government of Sierra Leone? If yes in what way?
Dr. Herry: Indeed, the President of Sierra Leone Ernest Bai Koroma was very receptive and embraces the idea of our venture. Our fact finding mission and feasibility studies was fruitful and the government has allotted 1000hecters of land for the building of the Medical Center in Newton. Our entourage was privileged to meet the Vice President and the First Lady of Sierra Leone, Minister of Health and Sanitation, Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister of Information and many stakeholders for this worthwhile project. They are very enthusiastic of our plans to build the Medical Center in Sierra Leone.
J.S: Funding can be one of the sticky points for the realization of a project. How will the West Africa Medical Center be funded?
Dr. Herry: Every penny from Sierra Leoneans will be meaningful to the realization of this project. However, with modalities being put in place to ensure that the West Africa Medical Center becomes a reality, foundations and donor agencies are ready to sponsor the project. You know health is global concern so getting the involvement of humanitarians should not be a problem.
J.S: Establishing a Medical Center in post-war Sierra Leone is a big challenge taking into consideration the brain drain of experts in the medical field. Do you have Sierra Leoneans medical practitioners who are ready to work with you in the realization of your dreams and vision for the medical center?
Dr. Herry: Yes, I have two Medical Doctors who are working with me to ensure that the project becomes a reality. Dr. Sidikie Bangura, the Director for Sierra Leone Operations and Dr. Augustine Alusine Kamara (Alias Will), Assistant Director for Operations in Sierra Leone are working tediously to ensure that the project becomes a reality. They are also strategizing and putting together tactical plans in the United States and Sierra Leone, developing specific decisions about accomplishing the objectives of the West Africa Medical Center.
J.S: Beside the two Sierra Leoneans Medical Doctors, do you have plans to recruit medical practitioners in the Diaspora to augment the team of medical experts in the West Africa Medical Center?
Dr. Herry: Indeed, the West Africa Medical Center will recruit qualified medical practitioners in the Diaspora. The need for doctors and medical practitioners in Sierra Leone and Africa as a whole is of paramount importance. African countries are normally regarded as developing. There are many indicators as to which countries are developing and which are developed. Life expectancy is low in a country then it does not have enough medical, clean water or food supplies implying that it is in poverty and if infant mortality is low in a certain country then it means that the country does not have enough medical facilities. Therefore, the need for medical practitioners in Sierra Leone can not be over-emphasized. Doctors and medical practitioners will always be needed. Because of this, and meeting the health needs of the population, doctors and medical practitioners will always be in demand.
J.S: When do we expect the West Africa Medical Center to be full operation in Sierra Leone?
Dr. Herry: When modalities have been worked out the ground breaking and the first phase of the project will strat early in 2011.
J.S: Finally Dr. Herry do you have anything to say to Sierra Leoneans and you team of medical experts concerning this worthwhile project?
Dr. Herry: To Sierra Leoneans, I will say they should give maximum support for the realization of this project because it will not only bring employment, thus help solve the brain drain of medical practitioners and doctors in Sierra Leone and West Africa but a boost to the health sector. Instead of flying patient abroad to seek medical treatment the West Africa Medical Center will address critical medical issues that are treatable thereby alleviate the financial burden of bringing patients abroad to seek medical treatment.
J.S: Thank you Dr. Victor Herry for granting me this interview. Sierra Leoneans at home and Diasporas will give you the maximum support for the realization of this project and will be proud to have the first Medical Center that will cater to needs of not only Sierra Leoneans but West Africans as a whole.
Dr. Herry: It is pleasure.