The inauguration presided over by the First lady Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow was also graced by sponsors – ScanAid Foundation, a Norwegian charity. The inauguration of this new state-of-the-art facility, according to officials, would go a long in the country’s drive to ensuring timely treatment of cardiology-related illnesses, while at the same time reducing referrals to neighboring countries for treatment.
Welcoming the gathering, Dr Ammar Al Jafari, Chief Medical Director (CMD) at the hospital, recalled that when he came to The Gambia back in 2013, issues relating to heart disease was a challenge and still a challenge in the country and the country could not do anything to curb it at the time.
With this new state-of-the-art facility, CMD Al Jafari said, they now stand a good chance to do diagnostic and the treatment would follow.
He thanked the sponsors from Norway and Dr Lamin Jaiteh, the brainchild behind the project, for the foresight, saying the country’s health sector is on the right path towards achieving greater success.
Also speaking, Dr Lamin Jaiteh, head of Cardiology Unit at the EFSTH, revealed that the Cardiology Unit was mainly funded through and by a Norwegian charity, ScanAid International.
The project, he added, was conceived in April 2019 by him and one of his colleague brothers, adding that they thought about it and asked themselves whether it was possible and said, “Yes it is.”
Dr Jaiteh hailed the Norwegian charity, ScanAid for their tireless effort in raising fund to make sure works started in earnest.
He reminded that The Gambia, just like most low-income countries, faces a dual burden of diseases, saying while the country fights against infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, diabetes, malaria and HIV/AIDS and other respiratory diseases in children, Non-Communicable Diseases also continue to rise at an alarming rate.
“These diseases are the leading cause of death among the adult population.”
Dr Jaiteh equally flagged about the recent surge in cervical and breast cancers in The Gambia, which, he said, also add to the burden of diseases in the country.
To this end, he thanked the Norwegian charity and all those who supported them in one way or the other towards the construction of the magnificent edifice.
Morten Skjelbred, chairman of ScanAid International, informed that the Norwegian charity has been educating young Gambians in Brufut and its satellites village for more than 30 years.
“Since 1992, we started the first school there and all these years have been education, health care and nutrition. The best students finishing twelve grades at our secondary school every year have scholarships to study in The Gambia and other African universities.”
He spoke highly of his foundation’s intervention in The Gambia, saying they have supported a number of students to become teachers, lawyers and nurses in the country.
Dr Ahmadou Lamin Samateh, minister of Health, acknowledged that “cardiovascular disease is on the rise in The Gambia” just as it is in other parts of the world, saying he is informed that up to 29% of Gambians have hypertension and up to 7.8% are suffering from diabetes.
These diseases, he added, are silent killers and that it would be surprising to note that obesity is also on the rise.
Minister Samateh disclosed that it is also said that up to 25% of Gambians are obsessed and smoking is still a problem in The Gambia.
“In fact, it is said that up 90% of Gambians have these disposing factors to cardiovascular disease. I think that is alarming and the trend is now changing from Communicable diseases being the leading cause of mortality, to Non-communicable diseases. The lifestyles have changed and the diets have also changed,” he said.
This, he added, has disposed some to developing cardiovascular diseases, adding that the inauguration of the cardiology unit is not only timely but a significant move in the country’s drive to ensure quality health services to all.
The health minister went on to thank the sponsors and all stakeholders, who contributed towards putting up the edifice.
Speakers at the ceremony included Dr Einar Gude, a cardiac surgeon, Margareth W. Olseng, NORGAM and Modou Lamin Manneh, who spoke about the history of ScanAid in The Gambia.
Certificates of appreciation were presented to institutions and individuals, who in one way or the other supported the completion of the new cardiology unit.