3,000-Bed Hospital – Or A Bantaba?

By Saul Saidykhan

The Gambia has been offered $50 Million Dollars to use as it deems fit by the Chinese. We don’t have to pay it back. It is free. So what shall we spend $50 Million Dollars on?

Two weeks ago, in mid-May 2017, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, Ousainou Darboe signed a contract (on behalf of the Government of The Gambia) for the construction of an International Conference Centre in The Gambia.

Conference Centre Was Despot’s Idea To Pocket $10 Million Or More!

It turns out the project had been negotiated and sealed by the government of the Despot Yahya Jammeh in September 2016. President Barrow, who witnessed the signing, noted that his government gives priority to energy, farming, and healthcare among other areas. Anyhow, by signing the contract last month, the Barrow administration has effectively ratified Jammeh’s decision.

Given The Gambia’s current state, it boggles the mind trying to figure how anyone can place an International Conference Center among the top dozen list of priorities facing the country (unless of course the Despot was hoping to siphon off $10 million of that Chinese grant into his account in Panama).

So, in two years, thanks to the deposed Despot, we will have a world class International Conference Centre in The Gambia. Best case scenario: we will host a dozen international conferences a year which might be attended by a few thousand people. Employment opportunities will be TEMPORARY, and unpredictable. On the flipside, if I know my country, within two years, lack of maintenance combined with energy deficiency will become visible on the facility. And things could only go downhill.

 Western Region 3,000-Bed Hospital Instead?

Alternatively, instead of an International Conference Center, we could use our $50 Million Dollars gift to finally build a world class hospital. Imagine a 3,000-bed capacity modern hospital with a separate MedicalDental, and Vision section located in the Western Region (I shall get to why government needs to STOP putting Gambia’s meagre resources in a high-risk DEATH TRAP island call Banjul). Such a hospital will provide thousands of PERMANENT jobs (doctors, nurses, auxiliary staff, and  security.) More importantly, this new hospital will not only help close the gaping hole in this critical area, it will help train generations of healthcare professionals in The Gambia.

Use AU Villas to Entice Medical Trainers To The Gambia

Towards that training goal, we have a powerful tool to help us recruit foreign volunteer professional trainers lying in plain sight. When Jammeh spent $25 Million Dollars to host the AU Summit, he built 53 villas to lodge the African Heads of State. Today, officially, all these villas are vacant and unused. However, anyone who knows us Gambian men knows WHO uses these villas often and for WHAT purpose.

If this government would take my advice, they could put these villas to better use. If they build a hospital, they can use the AU villas to entice seasoned medical doctors and professors from cold climates around the world to sunny Gambia. In exchange for free room and board at these villas near the Atlantic, the doctors can work for free at the new hospital, and teach at Gambia’s Medical School. I will bet anything that the response will be overwhelmingly positive. There are many experienced medical professionals in cold climates who would be amenable to living in a sunny, peaceful place on West Africa’s Atlantic coast. Why not exchange free lodging for knowledge and skills transfer? This way, we will kill three birds with one stone: 1. Provide world class quality medical care to Gambians 2. Train Gambian Medical students to World class standards and 3. Make use of the AU villas by luring the type of people The Gambia desperately needs.

The choice between the International Conference Center and the 3,000-bed hospital in terms of benefit couldn’t be clearer. Why can’t we be more creative or imaginative?

Or am I missing something…