Authorities of the Ministry of Health on Friday, November 2, concluded a three-day National Dialogue on Health Financing Reform in Ganta, Nimba County.
The occasion, which brought together nearly all county superintendents and partners in the health sector, resolved to reintroduce health financing at all public health facilities. The dialogue also brought in experts who shared some universal best practices of health service delivery.
In the preamble of the resolution, the MOH explained the country’s National Health Policy Plan covering 2011 – 2021 and the complementary post-Ebola Investment Plan for building a resilient Health System within the time frame of five years (2016 to 2021); and the National Health Sector Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) 2018 to 2023 as well as the National Health Financing Policy Plan for those years.
According to the MoH, Liberia has implemented a “free healthcare service” over a decade, which is aimed at ensuring access to and availability of quality healthcare service during this post-war era.
The MoH observed that despite the existence of the free healthcare policy, quality and equity in healthcare have not improved at the anticipated level.
In the dialogue, it was revealed that patients were abandoning clinics and hospitals to purchase their drugs in nearby drugstores, due to the continued shortage of drugs in health facilities.
The reintroduction of health financing, which was once canceled because of the civil war, will enable health practitioners to create what is termed as “health revolving fund,” where any money paid for health services will be used to purchase more medicine in the said health post.
In the resolution, the health authorities observed that the current free healthcare policy poses a challenge to the achievement of Universal Health Care. As such, health workers want cost recovery fees at a minimum to be re-instituted at all public facilities where feasible.
In the policy, there will be human rights-based exemptions for key population and the criteria for exemption for cost recovery should be reviewed periodically to ensure that poor and vulnerable population maintain equitable access to services as a human rights following the introduction of a compulsory national social health insurance scheme.
“The revolving drug fund must be reintroduced in all public facilities, to ensure availability and quality of essential medicines and medical supplies,” the resolution said.
The resolution also said there should be a sustained public awareness and advocacy instituted by the MoH, local government authorities, civil society organizations (CSOs), the media and stakeholders on the new health financing reforms at all levels.
Both the chairpersons of House Committee on Health Representative Joseph Sonwabi and Senate Committee on Health Senator Peter Coleman, were in attendance and pledged their unflinching support to the reintroduction of the health financing plan.
Sen. Coleman, who was once a health minister, said the health financing provided a boost to the health sector prior to the war by keeping drugs and other supplies at the health post at all times.
Coleman said that some funds were used to even compensate staff members who were not on the government’s payroll, enhancing development within the communities.
Last year, the Daily Observer reported a shortage of medicines at most of the clinics and hospitals, including the one at Bahn Refugee Camp in Nimba County and other health posts, in which most of the clinicians lack the money to purchase their own drugs to attend to the influx of patients.
The new plan will exempt pregnant women and children under five from paying money for their health services.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Health, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, cautioned health workers to collaborate in order to deliver quality services to the people.
Dr. Jallah said people are leaving the public health posts for private centers because they complain the public health posts are giving them white paper to buy their own drugs.
She warned health practitioners to stop taking medicine and provide the best primary healthcare in line with the Universal Health Coverage.