CHOs are the bedrock of primary health service


- says Lawmaker

October 28, 2016 By Jariatu S. Bangura

Member of Parliament representing Constituency 63 in Tonkolili district has stated that community health workers are the bedrock of primary health service in the country, and that they should be treated with utmost respect.

Speaking during a pre-legislative meeting with lawmakers and community health practitioners on a Bill titled ‘Community Health Practitioners Act’, Dr. Abdulai Sesay, said among other things, that CHOs man Peripheral Health Units (PHUs) across the country.

“This is an issue that we should have dealt with since the establishment of the medical school. This bill provides for CHOs to have a career partway and in other countries, they are supporting manpower in terms of medical assistance. Court clerks and supporting staff help to carry out their work, therefore CHOs should be regulated by laws,” he said.

He noted that Sierra Leone should not be an exception to laws regulating CHOs, emphasising that peripheral health workers are the bedrock of primary health service in the country.

He said since 1983, when the paramedical school was established, the CHOs that graduated at that time still remained as Grade 5 staff in the civil service scale.

He continued that the said school was established to serve as a career pathway for CHOs, but noted that they have been left on their own without being regulated.

Minority Leader of Parliament, Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai, said the bill would help strengthen the CHOs, and that there was need for them to be reconsidered because they are much closer to medical doctors.

She stated that the entire health system would have been in disaster if there were no CHOs to help medical doctors

“The CHOs have to be in areas where medical doctors cannot reach. Therefore, it is wise to regulate such cadres in order for them to be protected and given the right to operate well and be guided by law,” she said.

In his presentation, Deputy Chief Community Health Officer in the Ministry of Health, Mohamed A.S. Kamara, said that the primary focus of the bill was to provide a clear understanding of the concept of community health services, provide understanding on community health cadres, and to highlight the need to set up a regulatory board for practicing health workers.

He stated that the concept of community health was about the health of the entire population, coupled with the prevention and treatment of common diseases in various communities.

He added that CHOs could carry out community diagnosis, conduct baseline survey, collect baseline data and analyse situation, and find solutions to existing or emerging health problems.

However, Kamara admitted that there were challenges, especially in the area of policies for community health service that would explain the roles and responsibilities of CHOs at national and district levels.