President Ellen Johnson yesterday said the Unity Party led government has fulfilled its 2005 campaign promise to the people of Nimba County and neighboring countries by the completion of the Jackson Fiah Doe Memorial Hospital in Tappita.
“During this administration, major functional public health facilities more than doubled. Therefore, I am pleased to say that we have fulfilled a 2005 campaign promise to the people of Nimba, who now enjoy services in the most modern healthcare facility that is also used as a referral hospital for patients from neighboring countries including Guinea and La Cote d’Ivoire,” she pointed out.
According to the President, the southeasterners will have no need to travel as far as Monrovia for good medical attention as it was in the case before the coming into power of the UP-led government.
President Sirleaf also noted that an ambitious program for the construction of housing facilities for health professionals is ongoing, with 27 units under construction in four counties, which are expected to be completed by the end of this dry season.
She called on the nation to reflect on the gains her administration has made in rebuilding the broken health system prior to her inauguration in 2006.
“Since 2006, our strategy for healthcare delivery has focused on primary health, which provides essential services free of charge to everyone in every community. The health system has been decentralized with the establishment of a functional county health team in each county, and district health officers assigned to each of the 73 districts,” she said.
President Sirleaf noted in her 12th and final State of the Nation address that the improvements in the health sector became the first step in her government’s overall decentralization program that is bringing rapid and positive results.
“An increasing level of budget support, supplemented by contributors and partners through the establishment of a Health Pool Fund, facilitated a harmonization of priorities between government and partners. Today, compensation has been increased to a minimum of US$2,000 for doctors and US$350 for nurses all through public budget allocation,” the President said.
She recounted that in 2006, the UP-led government inherited a broken health system; hospitals, schools and clinics in dilapidated structures, lacked drugs, and the number of doctors, nurses and other health practitioners was woefully inadequate.
“Three counties had no functional health facility. Eight had no Liberian medical doctors. Doctors earned US$30 or its Liberian dollar equivalent, and the average nurse’s salary was US$18 or equivalent, and only 41 percent of the population had access to any form of basic healthcare.
“Despite improvements, deficiencies of the health system were exposed when the Ebola disease hit us. This became a wake-up call to the urgent need to build preventive systems for infection. Towards this end, 26 triage facilities have been concluded. They are attached to our major health centers. A National Institute of Health is being established to undertake the research that will improve the health delivery system,” the President reported to the nation.
She recalled the effectiveness of mobilized communities in defeating the Ebola outbreak in record time, where ongoing programs are training about 4,000 community health workers to serve as first responders.
It can be sadly recalled, however, that “the disease,” the 2014 Ebola epidemic, exposed the weakness of the country’s health system by killing nearly 5,000 in Liberia.