President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has told Liberians through their lawmakers that a well-functioning healthcare delivery system is vital to the achievement of all other development goals in the country. The President added: “A healthy people make a happy nation.”
Delivering her State of Nation address yesterday, she stated that her administration has improved access to health facilities from about 30 percent to about 70 percent.
“We have reduced infant and maternal mortality, and improved birth attendance by trained professionals.” According to her, because of progress her administration has made, the UP-led government was singled out by the United Nations for recording the highest change in the reduction of under-five mortality.
“We reduced the incidents of malaria from 68 percent to 28 percent; we made primary health care delivery free across the country. Yet, our efforts proved inadequate in terms of infrastructure and infection prevention and control.
The President disclosed that today all the 15 counties have a government-run hospital, the last of which was recently constructed and is operational in Fish Town, River Gee County.
President Sirleaf added that in addition to the 15 county hospitals, rather than 354 in 2006, there are 712 health facilities functioning in the country, 275 of which are privately-owned or faith-based.
On the progress her government has made post-Ebola, she stated that a new diagnostic center is operational with plans to be converted to a public health institute. “Five regional public health laboratories capable of high quality diagnostics of diseases such as Ebola will improve our capacity to respond appropriately. A new college of physicians and surgeons has been established to provide home grown specialized training to doctors and other professional medical personnel.
“Currently, all major health facilities are undergoing various forms of improvements including to the infrastructure, training, infection prevention and control protocols as well as provision of modern equipment with plans to expand, renovate and elevate five county hospitals to regional hospitals within the next 24 months. We will rebuild the health sector and ensure that it is more resilient,” the President said.
Pres. Sirleaf stated how proud she is to have constructed the Jackson Fiah Doe (JFD) Hospital in Tappita, Nimba County. The hospital doesn’t only serve Liberians but citizens of other nations, including La Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea.
“We are pleased that its services have improved the living conditions of many of our people beyond the Nimba including spilling over our borders into neighboring countries. We renew our commitment to maintain the modern facility as the best-equipped referral institution in the country.”
The President told the nation that since 2006, the number of healthcare workers has more than doubled, from nearly 4,000 to over 10,000. According to her, doctors who earned US$30 in 2006, today earn a minimum of US$1,000 a month. Nurses, who earned US$10 in 2006, now make up to US$225.
Directly addressing the lawmakers, the President indicated that when compared to the invaluable services doctors, nurses, teachers and policemen are rendering, she considers “this improved compensation level to be inadequate.”
“We understand the current financial constraints but must continue to explore possibilities to improve their compensation as the opportunities evolve.
Over 16,500 health care personnel from both private and public facilities were paid risk benefits of over 22 million dollars in appreciation for their services to combat Ebola. This represented a supplement well above those paid by NGOs, private institutions and governments of other Ebola affected countries, said the President.
To date, a total of 126 families whose relations were health care workers and regrettably died in the battle against the Ebola virus, from both public and private health facilities, have received US$5000 each, amounting to a total of US$636,000. We know that this is insufficient to dull the pains of our collective loss of such valuable lives. But we believe it represented the least a grateful nation could reasonably do.”