Dr. Alpha Tejan Wurie – Right Choice In The Right Place

 By Sheik Sesay     

Development experts have asserted that when you put the right person in the right place, the job is as good as excellently done or mastered.

In which vein, the name Dr. Alpha Tejan Wurie is synonymous in post-war Sierra Leone with the ‘SABABU Education’ project that had the mammoth task of returning Sierra Leone’s war-torn education system back to normalcy which, true to his go-getter characteristic, he did commendably during his two terms as Minister of Education, Science and Technology between 1996 and 2007.

This phenomenal achievement was not lost on reform-minded President Julius Maada Bio, who appointed the productive workaholics as his New Direction Government Minister of Health and Sanitation. Under dynamic leadership, many commentators have observed that the Health and Sanitation Ministry is set for unprecedented radical transformation. It has also been observed by the World Health Organization (WHO) that for any nation to develop economically, its workforce has to be healthy to be actively involved in national productivity.

Dr. Alpha T. Wurie is in charge of delivering on the Ministry of Health & Sanitation’s conviction that access to sound health is a human right. Its vision is to ensure a functional national health system delivering efficient, high quality healthcare services that are accessible, equitable and affordable for everybody in Sierra Leone and the overall goal is to maintain and improve the health of its citizens.

As such, Dr. Wurie’s Ministry’s mission is to contribute to socio-economic development by promoting and ensuring quality health for the Sierra Leone population and a vision to deliberately build progressive, responsive and sustainable technologically-driven, evidence-based and client-centered health system for accelerated attainment of the highest standard of health to all Sierra Leoneans.

Accordingly, in an innovative drive to transform the health sector for quality service delivery, Dr. Alpha T. Wurie unfolded his plans to senior staff of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation during his maiden meeting with them at the Ministry’s Headquarters in Freetown on Monday 7th May, 2018.

In the meeting, the much experienced and indefatigable technocrat laid emphasis on inclusive development and bridging gaps between the Peripheral Health Units (PHUs) and the Headquarters – an accepted and modern development paradigm in which you use bottom up approach to motivate most vulnerable communities towards development.

Dr. Wurie observed that there had been disconnect between the Ministry and the PHUs but promised to bridge those gaps between six months and two years of his tenure through a productive team work approach and maximum support to rural urban health sector.

On the issue of strengthening the sector, the Minister indicated that much is needed to fix rural and urban health facilities, especially in the area of infrastructure, portable water supply, energy, human resources, nutrition, drugs and modern laboratory for diagnostic purposes. The above cannot be achieved in isolation; it has to be a collaborative effort inclusive of all the line Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

Under Dr. Wurie’s leadership, the MoHS’ vision for the health sector sets forth a long-term direction for the health space, building on the promise of one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): A well-functioning national health system that delivers efficient and high-quality healthcare and ultimately contributes to the socioeconomic development of the country. This care must be of high quality, accessible, affordable and equitable to all Sierra Leoneans.

The mission is to address and resolve – in a serious, credible and evidence-based manner – the significant health system challenges that must be solved in order to achieve the MoHS’ vision.  This will require improved coordination of plans, activities and resources among the GoSL and its development partners.

This approach builds on leveraging the tremendous work undertaken over the past few years contained in the HSSP II 2017 – 2021 which covers eight pillars:

  1. Leadership and governance
  2. Service delivery
  3. Human resources for health
  4. Health financing
  5. Medical products and health technologies
  6. Health information systems and research
  7. Health security and emergencies.
  8. Community engagement and health promotion

For Dr. Wurie to execute his plans well, he noted that there must be collaboration among the line Ministries so that when the lead Ministry of Health and Sanitation provides health structure with all the paraphernalia, the other Ministries of Water Resource and Energy will provide portable water and electricity supply respectively.

From that brief interaction with his staff, the Minister showed strong leadership and determination to work with every competent personnel irrespective of tribe, party, colour, region and background. He extended invitation to other health professionals that are no longer in the system but have something to offer to the people of Sierra Leone to come onboard.

Dr. Wurie suggested that there was need for the three professional heads of the Ministry – the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and his two Deputies to work hand in glove under the Executive Management Committee for effective service delivery and each of them providing direct supervisory roles to key programmes within the Ministry.

Meanwhile, the Pharmaceutical Society of Sierra Leone has been complementing Dr. Wurie’s aim of making health service delivery better through the setting up of regulatory framework and control of importation and exportation of drugs and chemical and detergents, manufacturing, distribution, sale of drugs and medical advice, amongst others.

Dr. Wurie notes that the supply chain of key services and programmes are over-centralized but has pledged to do everything in his power to decentralize major programmes at national, regional, district and chiefdom levels.

He also stresses the need to bridge the human resource gap in the entire health sector through skills development and proper financial management and the need for free healthcare and cost recovery and inter-linkages of programmes as key initiatives in addressing major challenges in the health sector across the country.

Dr. Wurie is an accomplished academic, a fulfilled politician and entrepreneur in the private sector, who has served in strategic areas of human endeavor. His experience and contributions to nation building have been overwhelming.

“One of my greatest contributions is the development of the minds of the young. I started my teaching career back in 1978 and I was full-time teacher in St. Joseph Convent Secondary School, Brookfields, Freetown. I also started to lecture in the University of Sierra Leone (USL) in 1983 with a Doctorate Degree and we trained a host of students.”

Dr. Wurie went on: “It is not so much those you teach but those you interrelate with and the number of people you are able to help mold and come out in life. Before coming into politics, I had created a clinical laboratory to tackle diagnosis, which, in science, is the most difficult of all issues. And we have been able to work with 300-400 doctors in the 20 years span this business has existed.”

“I was born in the Western Area- Goree Street to be specific, but my parents are from Gbinti in the Port Loko District. I went to the first school at Easton Street- Ban of Hope as it was called. Later I went to the Holy Trinity School, Kissy Road and other primary schools up to Class Seven. I went to the Bo School to imbibe culture with people from all traditional backgrounds. I proceeded to the Sierra Leone Grammar School and Fourah Bay College (FBC) and I had Honors in Chemistry.”