Tuesday August 16, 2004
Tamba Borbor reports from Freetown
At around 9:00am on Friday 12th August, Nurses converged at the National School of Nursing in protest over their incorporation into the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS). Defying the heavy downpour of rain, they lined up in front of the Hostel at Wallace Johnson Street displaying banners and placards which had different messages inscribed on them in getting the authorities to take note of their grievances.
Speaking to the President of the Sierra Leone Nurses Association (SLNA), Sister Patricia Abu, about the cause of the peaceful protest, she said that they are totally against the idea of incorporating the School of Nursing into COMAHS; adding that they support being an affiliate of the University. Disclosing that they have already given a 21-day strike notice to the authorities concerned; failing which they would resort to a sit down strike come 1st September.
Sister Abu stressed that there is a marked difference between “incorporation and affiliation.” “When you incorporate something, you are in control of it. the thing would not be autonomous but would be run by somebody above,” she stated; adding that the School of Nursing has been governed by the Nurses and Midwife Board in Sierra Leone which effectively monitors standard and practice of students a well as they the professionals. The Nurses Association President stressed, “incorporating us into COMAHS is like taking away our autonomy as professionals and even taking away our facilities.”
She disclosed that the dropout rate at the COMAHS is 62.3% as compared to theirs, which is 5% for State Registered Nurses (SRN), and 6% for State Enrolled Community Health Nurses (SECHN). These figures Sister Abu said were obtained from a survey done by a Consultant from the European Union. She went on to say that 70% of the lecturers of COMAHS are working part-time and are engaged in private practice; which she maintains does not allow them to teach effectively hence the reason for the high dropout figures. COMAHS the Nurses Association President stated would argue that they want to maintain standards at the Nursing School to justify the incorporation. ” We as professionals started it already and there are standards.
When nurses leave these shores and go abroad, they perform very well. You cannot separate nursing education from nursing practice,” Sister Abu stated; adding that as a way of improving on the present, there is now a whole Department at COMAHS wherein nurses can pursue a BSc programme. She categorically stated that there is nothing to gain from being incorporated but rather COMAHS stands to gain more; stressing: this is infact the reason for the insistence on incorporating us.”
Asked whether they were consulted by the Government before taking the decision to get them incorporated into COMAHS, the President of SLNA said: “we were never consulted and infact we heard they have been working on this thing for over two years now. When we heard about it last year, we wrote to the Director General of Medical Services who then told us it is news to him. The Ministry of Education did not reply to our letter and it is like they think nurses don’t know what they want.” Sister Abu stated that the whole issue seems absurd especially at a time when the country is talking about decentralisation. “How can the Ministry of Education start centralising schools? We really don’t know what the Government is preaching. Is it centralisation or decentralisation,” she queried.