November 22, 2017 By Mohamed Massaquoi
Executive Director of Health Alert has said in an exclusive interview with this medium that if government is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030, coupled with the sustainable development goals on health, it should invest 90 percent of its healthcare expenditure on primary health, which is the bedrock for providing quality and reliable healthcare facility for its citizenry.
Victor Lansana Koroma said universal healthcare coverage (UHC) means ensuring everybody access quality, essential health services without any financial hardship, with people having the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental healthcare services.
He observed that the state has a duty to work towards delivering that right to the maximum in line with available resources.
He disclosed that in 2015 the government of Sierra Leone committed to achieving UHC by 2030 through the Sustainable Development Goals, but noted that there are still challenges in that direction.
Koroma disclosed that his organisation recently embarked on a survey to ascertain the level of availability of services at primary healthcare level to address reproductive maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health in eight districts across Sierra Leone.
“76% of women report barriers to access health services, while 67% report financial barriers and 17% reported not ready to attend health services. 39% reported distance as a barrier and 18% reported getting permission to access as a barrier among other things,” he said.
“Primary healthcare is the first point of contact between a community and their country’s health system. Ninety percent of health needs can be met at the PHU level. Strong primary healthcare services enable early diagnosis, preventative, curative and palliative care across the life-course and are a key first line of defense against communicable diseases and the biggest killers of pregnant women, mothers, children and adolescents.”
He added that primary healthcare providers are essential gatekeepers, guiding people through the health system and improving efficiency by directing patients to the most appropriate and affordable services.
“The 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak was a devastating reminder of the importance of strong primary healthcare systems to protecting people from infection, halting the spread of disease and saving lives. Research in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone shows that under-resourced, under-staffed and poorly equipped health systems were quickly overwhelmed,” he concluded.