For a country with over three million people and endowed with resources to spare, and given how long it has been in existence, one would think that Liberians began enjoying free health care a long time ago.
Just because that did not happen way back then, is no reason this country’s citizens should not celebrate what many regard as a breakthrough for this administration that has been under pressure for what many still regard as promises unfulfilled.
On Friday last week, to an assembly of Ministers of Health visiting here from the Economic Community of West African States region, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf disclosed that her government is initiating a Liberia Health Equity Fund (LHEF).
The LHEF will be a new funding mechanism that will help to pay for health care for all Liberians on an equitable basis. Everyone will have access to the same services regardless of where they are, who they are or their financial standing.
The Liberian President said if the country is to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC), it must begin to build a sustainable health financing system through domestic financing for the health sector.
Admitting that it would be a difficult task—considering the multiple needs of a country undergoing reconstruction—she said it must be done!
Her statement might have been prompted by what she observed as fast-paced declining donor support to the health sector.
President Sirleaf said that despite this and other challenges, government is working to improve the health and social welfare status of all Liberians on an equitable basis.
She named inadequate financing for drugs, facility construction, health workers incentives; poor-quality service delivery; financial constraints of the population themselves, especially the poor, as some of the major challenges facing the health sector.
Also mentioned were unbalanced service-provision across counties—given intermittent transport difficulties—and declining contributions from international partners
“Achieving Universal Health Coverage takes time and perseverance for it involves accessibility, affordability, and quality service. Government is endeavoring to realize this through strong political commitment at all levels.”
She reminded the audience of the commitment she made when she addressed the 63rd World Health Assembly in Geneva that people should not have to die simply because they are poor; and pledged to find mechanisms to continue to allow Liberians to access the health care they need without having to pay up-front fees.
The Liberian leader commended the health team for the services they are rendering free of charge, in all of the rural areas, though sometimes are challenged when it comes to quality;
Nevertheless, health service and delivery is expanding in such a way that alerts them to patients’ health problems—if urgent—they can go to a health service center and get immediate and urgent care until they can be transferred to facilities that require much more attention.”
We realize that free health care is not free; someone has to pay for it,” she pointed out; it has to be paid through other forms of taxes and through the mobilization of resources. She applauded partners for the support.
Health Minister Walter Gwenigale last year indicated that the LHEF was a laudable initiative that would help cater to the health needs of all Liberians. He noted that the issue of health is a necessity and as such every Liberian should have access to quality health service.