The Executive Director of Public Health Initiative Liberia (PHIL), Joyce K. Jarwolo, has indicated that the government needs to craft health policies that will enable every Liberian to have access to affordable healthcare services in the country.
Jarwolo made the statement yesterday during a program marking the Universal Health Coverage Day, held at a resort in Monrovia. She urged the Liberian government not to focus on reforms that provide an advantage for those in the formal employment sector.
It may be recalled that on December 12, 2012, the United Nations unanimously endorsed a historic resolution urging all countries to accelerate progress towards universal access to affordable and quality health care services for all.
Quite often, Jarwolo said, health policies, budgets and programs do not prioritize the impact of health benefits for the most vulnerable and marginalized.
"We need a national universal health coverage reform that is a critical enabler to social justice and equity, and must be part of a wider effort to realize our right to health. While we agree that UHC will be achieved progressively, we call on governments, global health stakeholders, and donors to commit to progressive universal health care to ensure that those who are currently left behind and the most in need are prioritized without discrimination," Jarwolo said.
According to her, the policies should include those marginalized due to poverty, ethnicity, youth, age, disability, gender, sexuality, religion, migration status, conflict, distance, remoteness and key populations, all of whom are currently denied their full right to access quality health services.
Participants at the UHC day celebration held at a local resort in Monrovia
She stressed that quality and affordable healthcare is the foundation for individuals to lead productive and fulfilling lives and for countries to have strong economies.
The program included a panel discussion that focused on leveraging momentum to achieve UHC targeting primary healthcare, health financing, and governance.
Shelly Ada Wright, Health Strengthening Specialist, USAID-Liberia who served as one of the panelists, said that while some gains have been made in the health sector over the years, more needs to be done, especially in healthcare financing.
Dr. Francis Kateh, Liberia's Deputy Health Minister and Chief Medical Officer, said Liberia has made some strides in building the country's health system, and called on the public to help by trusting the system for its services.
He warned the public to stop buying medicines "from those selling drugs in buckets," which is hampering the improvement of universal health.
"The key to solving many of the country's health needs is trust and we hope that people can start trusting the system. Some people prefer to buy drugs from the bucket than going to the clinic for drugs, which are free," he said.
Montserrado County Health Officer Dr. Yatta Sackie-Wahpoe, a panelist, stressed the need for health workers to change their behavior in order to encourage the public to seek healthcare services.
"We need to ensure that all services are affordable, which will make the poor and the rich to have the same services. Currently, there is a lack of trust within the country's health system, which is causing serious problems. We need to train and motivate health workers," Dr. Sackie-Wahpoe said.