Pictured at the meeting in Sierra Leone (from left): Yousuf Bangura, Laerke Winther, Ismaila Kebbie, Jonathan Quartey, Dr Joseph Edem-Hotah, Amara Fornah.

Africa region supports Sierra Leone physical therapists in move towards a degree

WCPT’s Africa Region is supporting physiotherapists in Sierra Leone in a move to establish a professional association and BSc degree programme. There are currently only four trained Sierra Leonean physiotherapists in a country with around 450,000 people with disabilities.

Jonathan Quartey, Chair of the WCPT Africa Region, responded to a request for WCPT assistance from two local physiotherapists, Ismaila Kebbie and Jesse Banguah, working in Freetown and a Danish physiotherapist and supervisor, Lærke Winther, from Masanga DK, a non-governmental organisation supporting Masanga Hospital, Sierra Leone.
The group met in Masanga, Sierra Leone, in February: “We discussed the possibility of starting a Bachelor of Physiotherapy training programme in Sierra Leone in the latter part of this year,” says Jonathan Quartey. “I also encouraged them to start a physiotherapy association as soon as possible so that they can apply for WCPT membership.”
The idea of establishing a physiotherapy undergraduate training programme originates from Tonkolili District College of Health Sciences in Masanga. The college is part of the Masanga Hospital Rehabilitation Project, which is supported by international non-governmental organisations from UK, Holland, Norway and Denmark.
“Physiotherapists are needed badly in Sierra Leone,” says Lærke Winther. “The ambition is to provide quality health care education for the people of Sierra Leone to improve the healthcare system with qualified, trained healthcare professionals. The Tonkolili District College already trains nurses and will eventually train midwives, radiographers and other allied health professionals.” 
“People with disabilities in Sierra Leone experience prejudice, social exclusion and segregation from decision-making processes. Their disabilities make them unable to work which leaves them in severe poverty. There is a gap in healthcare professionals qualified to manage the rehabilitation and prevention of disabilities, and the existing rehabilitation centres are not accessible to everyone due to poor roads and lack of a proper transportation system.”
At the meeting in Masanga, it was agreed that the first intake of students for the BSc in physiotherapy should start in September or October this year. Jonathan Quartey will chair a curriculum development committee and the curriculum will be shaped around the WCPT guideline for physical therapist professional entry level education. A registration process for the Sierra Leonean Association for Physiotherapists has begun.