‘We Must Define What Is Free Health Care’

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Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence has decried the practice of government-run health institutions charging the sick for health care when it should be free of charge.
She is therefore requesting the Senate plenary to invite the nation’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Francis Nah Kateh and Health Minister, Dr. Bernice Dahn, to appear before that body to answer questions relating to what she described as “some major issues in the health sector that have been overlooked by the Legislature and the Executive.
Senator Lawrence asserted that the current National Budget recently passed by the Legislature contained US$72 million, which is 12 percent of the entire budget, for the Ministry of Health (MOH), which she said covers mostly the salaries.
Despite such allocation, the Grand Bassa Lawmaker regretted that “today, all regional/major hospitals in the country do not have x-ray machines; the most needed and cheapest medical equipment, drugs are never available; patients have to purchase almost everything before they are treated, because the revenue envelop is small to do more.”
Senator Lawrence, who chairs the Senate Committee on Post and Telecommunications, said she recently paid over US$500 to release a patient at the John F. Kennedy (JFK) Medical Center, including other amounts paid to the hospital.
In her communication dated August 10, 2015, Senator Lawrence noted that, as much as “we support free health care delivery system; we must define what is free and what should be paid for at the government health facilities.”
Doing so, she believes “would remove the burdens off our people or divert the funding allocated to government revenue for the improvement of the facilities, and to provide the services needed.”
Because of Ebola, the lawmaker stated, the weaknesses of the country’s health system were exposed, thereby attracting many donors to help the country; while money has been raised to help Liberia and other countries that were affected by Ebola.
“In view of all the information mentioned, I wish to request from this plenary that Dr. Francis Kateh, the Chief Medical Officer be invited for an open public hearing to tell us how well the free medical program is working and also Dr. Bernice Dahn to present the health plan that will be supported by funds from donors.”
Attempts by some Senators, including J. Milton Teahjay of Sinoe County to at least allow few minutes discussions on the communication, were rejected by Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, who proffered a motion that the letter be sent to the Peter Coleman-chaired Health Committee to report to plenary by next Tuesday.

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