The Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Alpha Tejan Wurie has officially opened the Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association (SLMDA) Mid-Year Congress and Scientific Sessions on the theme: "The Role of Medical Insurance in Improving Healthcare in Sierra Leone" and a symposium on the topic: "Surgery as a Component of Universal Health Coverage" over the weekend at the Makama Lodge in Makeni.
Declaring the session open, Dr. Alpha Wurie disclosed that Health Insurance is one that covers the whole or a part of the risk of a person incurring medical expenses, spreading the risk over a large number of persons.
He said by estimating the overall risk of health care and health system expenses over the risk pool, an insurer can develop a routine finance structure, such as a monthly premium or payroll tax, to provide the money to pay for the health care benefits specified in the insurance agreement.
Dr. Wurie maintained that the National Health Insurance was established by governments with a goal to provide equitable access and financial coverage for basic health care services to the citizen
He noted that for Sierra Leone several health reforms aimed at improving access to health care services and providing financial risk protection have been implemented in the last decade.
The Minister stated that key milestone in Sierra Leone's health system reforms include the Free Health Care Initiative, a government initiative that was launched in 2010 to ensure Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by providing free preventive and curative health services for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under-five years in any public health facility.
He said since 2011, Sierra Leone has been implementing Result Based Financing (RBF) scheme as part of a World Bank supported reproductive and child health project. He said under this scheme, funds are given to facilities based on satisfactory delivery of a set of key interventions, adding that the RBF scheme incentivizes facilities to improve the quality of services.
Dr. Alpha Wurie stated that the National Community Health Workers programme was launched in early 2017 aims to provide efficient, essential and high quality services that are accessible to everybody, especially people living in hard to reach areas. He furthered that the programme enlists a minimum 15, 000 Community Health Workers to provide minimum reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health integrated community case management.
He told the gathering that the Health Sector Recovery Plan 2015-2020 is a post-Ebola Virus Disease outbreak health sector recovery plan, and focuses on five areas including patient and health worker safety, health workforce, essential health services, surveillance and information, and community ownership.
The Health Minister reiterated that the SleSHI Scheme was developed, passed as an Act of Parliament and was launched by the former President in February 2018. He said in the New Direction they will accelerate the processes to get the Act implemented, and furthermore recognizes the fact that if they are to reverse the appalling statistics in the health sector, they need to increase both public and private investment in the sector. He added that there is government commitment to take the following measures including raise the current public spending on health and sanitation from its current level of less than 10 percent to 15 percent as required by the Abuja Declaration and ensure timely disbursement of allocated resources, review and implement the National Health Insurance Scheme. He added that it will strengthen the management and coordination of all resources allocated to the health sector and effectively track all donors resources to the sector and develop public private sector framework for health care service delivery.
He informed the gathering that the New Direction is committed to reviewing laws and policies relating to regulatory bodies such as the Medical and Dental Association and make them more functional and promote dialogue with relevant stakeholders in the health sector.
Dr. Wurie assured them of the Ministry's readiness and commitments to continue to support the efforts of the SLMDA and other regulatory bodies to address the health development challenges that the country faces.
In his statement, the President SLMDA, Dr. Sorie Conteh said the theme was chosen to demonstrate the support of the medical association towards the setting up and subsequent implementation of the SLeSHI.
He said it will create the avenue for medical practitioners to have a clear understanding of the social health insurance scheme and better put them in the better position to become the front runners in the implementation of the scheme.
Making the theme presentation, SLeSHI Coordinator, Dr. Joseph Kamara said health care is a right for every citizen; hence the need to have universal access, as the whole world is moving towards Universal Health Coverage.
He said the current health care financing system in Sierra Leone is not sustainable, as it is plagued with high Out of Pocket (OOP) health expenditure, thus making many people not to access health care at the time of need. He added that it is a conduit for majority of the poverty cases as most households spend a very high percentage of their income on health.
Dr. Kamara noted that there is a need for a reliable and sustainable domestic financing model to achieve universal coverage in an efficient and equitable way.
He said the Health Insurance has emerged as the preferred financing option to extend access to health care in countries where Out of Pocket health expenditures are high.
Highlight of the event include statements from Paramount Chief, Bai Sebora Kasanga II, and the District Medical Officer, North, Dr. Brima Osaio Kamara.