November 22, 2017 By Jariatu S. Bangura
Executive Director of Health Alert, Victor Lansana, together with Save the Children International, yesterday called on Members of Parliament to help strengthen primary healthcare policy in a bid to promote and build quality, accessible and equitable primary healthcare service in the country.
Lansana told the Parliamentary Oversight Committees on Health and Finance that primary health care is the first point of contact between a community and the country’s healthcare system, noting that 90 percent of healthcare could be accessed at the Peripheral Health Centres(PHCs).
He said a strong primary healthcare service enables early diagnosis, prevention, curative and palliative care across the life-course, adding that it is also the first line of defense against communicable diseases and the biggest killer of pregnant women, mothers, children and adolescents.
He noted that primary healthcare in the country is delivered through a combination of traditional, public or government-run and private-owned health centres, adding that 80 percent of health service is obtained through government-run public services.
He urged the government to increase expenditure on primary healthcare and focus on improving financial protection by ensuring that the free healthcare initiative is properly implemented.
“They should ensure that healthcare providers are adequately funded to deliver service to reduce the need for unauthorised user fees,” he said.
He said they should also increase fiscal space for primary healthcare expenditure through health financing reform.
He implored the government to continue to rebuild national health system by prioritising increased access to essential health service as high infant and maternal mortality rates have become a concern, noting that the shortage of health workers and multiple barriers that women face in accessing health services are reason for such increase.
He also urged lawmakers to support civil society participation in decision-making and to advocate for increased investment in primary healthcare.
Advocacy Director of Save the Children International, Madam Mariatu Jalloh, said women and children are the most vulnerable in the country as they are yet to achieve absolute protection and other fundamental rights.
“Parliamentarians are the policy makers and that is why we came here for you to help us in strengthening the primary healthcare in order to reduce infant and maternal mortality rate across the country. Sierra Leone has the worst maternal mortality ratio in the world,” she said.
On his part, Hon. Jusufu B. Mansaray said the government should pay attention to primary healthcare to achieve growth, noting that recruitment of health workers should be a priority as a number of nurses and doctors are volunteers.
On the issue of men refusing for their wives to be taken to hospitals, he opined that they do so because of lack of money as most doctors and nurses request fees from pregnant women.
Hon. Helen Kuyembeh said government has done a lot although there is much to be done.
“We need to educate the public but we should first look at the figures given to support primary healthcare especially in the 2018 budget,” she said.
Deputy Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Alhassan Kamara, assured that they would do what is expected of them as lawmakers, and that most of the challenges will be looked into even though parliament will soon dissolve.