With the launch of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-sponsored Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP) Human Resources for Health Project, USAID is again supporting the Ministry of Health to build a resilient health system by preparing a fit for purpose health workforce.
MCSP is a global USAID Cooperative Agreement to introduce and support high-impact health interventions with a focus on 25 high-priority countries, including Liberia, with the ultimate goal of ending preventable child and maternal deaths within a generation.
The global MCSP program is focused on ensuring that all women, newborns and children most in need have equitable access to quality health care services to save lives.
MCSP reflects a changing global reproductive maternal newborn and child health (RMNCH) landscape and shifts in USAID priorities, including a greater emphasis on crosscutting issues such as quality, equity, and gender as well as a focus on sustainable scale up, such as strengthening health systems that will deliver high impact technical interventions.
The USAID MCSP program – led by Jhpiego and includes JSI and Save the Children – has two separate programs in Liberia. The first program – the Restoration of Health Services program – is working to restore confidence in the health care system. This will be accomplished by upgrading Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) practices critical for fighting Ebola and other infectious diseases, and ensuring restoration of reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health services in 77 health facilities in Grand Bassa, Lofa, and Nimba Counties.
The MCSP HRH program, which will run for two years, aims to support the Liberian government’s commitment to strengthen the country’s health workforce by focusing on strengthening pre-service education for registered midwives (RMs) and medical laboratory technicians (MLTs) in targeted institutions throughout the country.
USAID has a long history of investing in pre-service education in Liberia and has been a leader in supporting improvements in HRH management.
Through the Rebuilding Basic Health Services (RBHS) program (2008-2015) and the Liberia Grant Solicitation Mechanism (LGSM; 2009-2014), USAID provided scholarships and technical assistance to increase standards of training for health and social welfare through support to training institutions and professional associations responsible for licensing and accreditation.
USAID’s Center for Excellence in Health and Life Sciences (CEHLS) program (2011-2015) supported the University of Liberia and TNIMA to jointly design a BSc program in midwifery and make targeted improvements in pre-clinical science education and medical training at these institutions.
Liberia’s health workforce remains significantly below the levels needed to reach the national targets for 2021 laid out in the National Health and Social Welfare Human Resources Policy and Plan 2011–2021, with the greatest workforce shortages reported among midwives and laboratory personnel.
In addition, pre-service education programs for these two professions are at 50 percent or lower capacity, according to the government’s National Investment Plan 2015–2021.
These two cadres are critical for providing reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health services and also for correctly testing, diagnosing, and treating diseases such as malaria. These health workers play a key role in helping to reduce the unacceptably high maternal and newborn mortality rates and in implementing the national epidemic preparedness program.
In response to Liberia’s severe shortage of skilled clinicians and the ongoing struggle to produce a sufficient high-quality primary care and specialist workforce along with a transparent, equitable, affordable, and competitive pay and benefits regime for health workers, the Government of Liberia has produced a 7-year (2015-2021) National Health Workforce Program which will dramatically enlarge and improve Liberia’s workforce in order to build a more resilient healthcare system. The HWP’s key outcome is targeted increases in the quantity, quality, and skill diversity of the national health workforce.
Dr. Anthony S. Chan, USAID Liberia Mission Director, said USAID’s support to MCSP will assist MCSP to strengthen and expand a fit-for-purpose, productive and motivated health workforce to work to eliminate preventable child and maternal deaths in the country. He further stated that the statistic puts Liberia among the worst places for a woman to deliver a baby. However, with the MCSP HRH Project, midwifery and medical laboratory technicians (MLTs) training institutions will be able to train would-be midwives on how to skillfully deliver a baby and also detect when there is a danger sign.
Training institutions that are expected to form part of the program are Esther Bacon School of Nursing and Midwifery at the Curran Hospital in Zorzor, Lofa County; the Southeastern Region Midwifery Training Program, Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County; Mother Patern College of Health Science in Monrovia; and the Phebe Para-Medical Training Program and School of Nursing and Midwifery in Bong County. Others are the Tubman National Institute of Medical Arts (TNIMA) and the United Methodist University, both in Monrovia.
At these institutions, the program intends to work with the MOH and other stakeholders in strengthening pre-services to increase the quality of instruction by upgrading the technical competencies and teaching skills of faculty, including clinical preceptors, and strengthen curricula, course materials and delivery of both didactic and clinical training. It will also strengthen the learning environment at targeted pre-service training institutions and clinical practicum teaching sites in a comprehensive way through improved access to high-quality instructional resources, said Mrs Marion Subah, COP of the project.
USAID said at the end of the project, they expect Liberia among other things to have an updated competency-based curricula and procedure manuals for Registered Midwives and Medical Laboratory Technicians (MLTs).
Dr. Samson Azoaquoi, Assistant Minister for Preventive Services at the Health Ministry, said that authorities of the Ministry were pleased that USAID, one of their major partners, had come in to support the Health Workforce Program of the MOH and thanked USAID for the support.