Sierra Leone’s Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Alpha Wurie (right in photo), capped an extraordinarily busy week at the World Health Organisation’s 72nd annual General Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, with a lengthy bilateral meeting with WHO’s Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (left in photo), on Friday 24 May. Dr. Wurie earlier held fruitful meetings with Cuba’s Minister of Public Health, Jos� Angel Portal Miranda, who extended an official invitation to the Sierra Leone Health Minister to formalise a medical assistance package.

As in the Cuba meeting, Minister Wurie was accompanied by Sierra Leone’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative in Switzerland, Dr. Lansana Gberie, who facilitated the meetings.

In the meeting Dr. Wurie briefed the WHO Director General on his government’s plan to ensure Universal health coverage, using existing hospitals and community health centres as hubs in all 16 districts. Dr. Wurie noted the constraints in implementing the ambitious program as including the fact that two new districts created by the previous government, Karene and Falaba, do not have district hospitals that can serve as hubs. The focus in their cases will be on upgrading the existing community health centres for the short to medium terms.

Another innovation to help facilitate the universal health coverage in Sierra Leone will be use of Specialist Outreach Services, which will include local as well as diaspora medical specialists. There is a need to attract diaspora specialists, Dr. Wurie said, because of the sheer paucity of specialists in the country – only about 30 specialists serving a population of 7 million. Sierra Leone currently has only four properly trained and qualified obstetricians and gynaecologists, and only two radiologists. Dr. Wurie said that his Ministry will be drawing support from the Afro-European Medical and Research Network (AEMRN), whose President, Dr. Charles Senessie, a Sierra Leonean academic based in Switzerland, had his medical Education at the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS). Dr. Wurie later held lengthy discussions with Dr. Senessie in Geneva.