Chair’s Report January 2019

This is the sixth Tallinding Children’s Health Centre (TCHC) AGM. The Charity celebrated five years of official existence in April 2018. In the report I wrote for our Management Advisory Group (MAG) meeting held in The Gambia in November 2018, I referred to the progress of the TCHCharity and the challenges it faces. This Report continues the theme.

In November, all Trustees, for the second year running, visited the Centre to conduct a 5-year review of the management of the Centre and financed the visit of senior nurse, Clare Westwood to assess the clinical practice. Clare shadowed the work of the two nurses, clinical staff and lab technicians, discussed care and diagnosis with practitioners and patients and reviewed medical records. Clare assessed the clinical practice at the Centre as exemplary and was particularly impressed by the highly effective team work of clinicians, technicians and administrators which resulted in efficient and effective diagnosis in care (a video of her oral report is available on our website).

In parallel, the Trustees were involved in the scrutiny of the financial and organisational management of the Centre. In addition, Jane Gay evaluated the progress of our first Bendon Bursary beneficiary. The assessment was positive. We discussed the review with Sheik Touray the manager and clinical lead Lamin Njie and asked them to pass on our thanks to staff for their dedication and hard work. We also informed Lamin Njie that as a result of the review and to further underpin the professional practice of the Centre, Trustees had decided to award him a belated Bendon Bursary to enable him to register at the University in January 2019. Trustees were very positive about the Centre and discussed future improvements and fundraising strategies.

As noted in my November 2018 Report however, there has been an underlying concern about reports of unfair and inaccurate criticism from a newly elected ward councillor who had expressed an intention in the media to take over the management (https://allafrica.com/stories/201810170457.html). During our visit in November, we met with the Councillor and a number of Ward Development Committee members and representatives of the community to try and reassure them of the excellent practice of the Centre and its staff. Unfortunately, despite a number of meetings it would seem that the Councillor had already made his decision to intervene and despite our collaborative meeting of 3 December, he has deployed persons unannounced to manage the Centre and thus making the incumbent manager’s position untenable. I would like to make clear at this point that having worked with the Manager, Sheik Touray, for a considerable time, we have complete trust and confidence in his management of the Clinic and of our donations.

While in the Gambia, two of the Trustees were fortunate to meet with other health centre managers where similar political intervention had occurred or been attempted. We were advised to suspend our support pending future developments. We have decided reluctantly to take this move. This is the stage at which we are now. We continue to communicate and support clinicians at the Centre as individuals. To this end we have created a Trustee Consultant role to offer direct support to nurses and to advise on clinical issues. We will consider future developments for our charity work at the next meeting of the trustees in January 2019. Funding of the Bendon Bursary will continue and we will also continue to fund raise to support clinical health practice in The Gambia but the focus may need to adapt.

Our concern is the ongoing development of initiatives within The Gambia and to make the story live in the UK and to encourage donations! At a recent conference in Antwerp (Nov11th 2018), Hon. Ousman Sillah, Chair of Select Comm. on Health, women, children, disaster, refugees and humanitarian relief of the National Assembly, stated that what is required ’is not dependence but solidarity and partnership’ – if only everyone concurred.                 Watch this space….Life in The Gambia is forever interesting!