Lactating mothers and infants demand for the service has increased tenfold a week after the government of Sierra Leone launched a free health care programme for pregnant women.
"As a result of this larger than normal turnout, the available facilities are overstretched," Doctor Ibrahim Tholley, director of Health Services at the main Children's Hospital in the capital, said.
Advertisement"Our human resources are also overstretched, drugs have been exhausted and bed facilities are short," he told correspondents who saw long queues of people waiting to access the service on Monday. Doctors were said to be working from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm.
Reports from elsewhere in the country said that pregnant women were turning up in large numbers at government hospitals.
In Lungi, in the north of the country, adjacent to the country's sole international airport, Medical Superintendent Dr James Conteh said "lack of health personnel is making work very tedious".
"Patients who could not appreciate the situation frequently insult health personnel if they reported that drugs had run out."
In Bo, the second largest city, pregnant women said they were "disappointed" with the service "as it involved only government run hospitals".
Over a hundred pregnant women were turned away from the Catholic-run Serabu hospital and left disappointed after being told by nurses that the facility was not part of the scheme.
The hospital provides medical services for over 2,000 people in the area and its environs.
In Makeni, the fourth largest city, pregnant woman Fatmatta Sankoh said, "I am happy with the treatment I was given".
The doctor in charge of the hospital, Osaio Kamara, said, "the inflow of patients particularly in the Maternity unit has increased at least 10 fold. Within four days, over 40 babies have been delivered and about eight others through caesarian operations.
"However, the maternity unit is small and we are forced to discharge some patients whose conditions are stable to make way for new ones."
In Kono, in the east of the country, pregnant women were queuing up as early as 6:00 am to access the scheme, according to doctors in the diamond mining district.
Ministry of health officials have asked people accessing the service "to report any doctor or nurse who demand payment before or after treatment".
President Ernest Koroma said at the launch of the scheme on April 27 that the free health care programme was provided only by government hospitals for the time being.
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