President Bio Accounts For Investment in Health, Outlines Short And Long Term Visions For Universal Health Coverage
His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has told this year’s State Opening of Parliament that his government has trained and hired the highest number of nurses, doctors, midwives, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, and community healthcare workers in the country’s recent history.
“It is heartening to see that as a consequence of these far-reaching investments, maternal and child mortality rates have been considerably lowered. We have also reduced malaria-related deaths by over 47%; lowered the disease burden for other common illnesses; and the number of people living with HIV who receive lifesaving treatment has doubled.
“Looking ahead, my Government is focused on strengthening primary health care services, disease diagnostics, and also establishing pharmaceutical production in this country. My Ministers will bring to this house measures and legislation to achieve these outcomes.
“It is my firm belief, that every person in Sierra Leone is owed access to quality and affordable health services, and this without undue financial hardship. This is a responsibility our government takes very seriously.
“In line with our Universal Health Coverage goals, we have developed a new national Health Sector Strategic Plan and a Health Financing Strategy (2021-2025) that increases budgetary allocation for health and sanitation to 12%, and realigned the leadership and structure of the health sector in order to maximise efficiency. We have restructured and are working towards making the Sierra Leone Social Health Insurance Scheme (SLeSHI) operational. We have also promoted social dialogue with stakeholders in the health sector, provided health insurance for all healthcare workers, regularised and strengthened the national drug distribution system, and expanded free healthcare services to school-going children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.
“Around the world, technology is being used to drive health service delivery, improve healthcare outcomes and empower patients and we are not being left behind in this regard. My Government is actively taking advantage of technology and innovation to deliver inclusive health services and health information. With the support of the People’s Republic of China, my Government launched the “Health on Wheels” Initiative that will provide the full spectrum of health services to underserved communities. Government has strengthened Health Management and Information Systems (HMIS), data from which will be used to support informed strategic decision-making, programme development, and case evaluation and management. We have also adopted a hub and spokes approach to restructuring healthcare service delivery so that there is a healthcare facility within a five-mile radius of every Sierra Leonean. My Government has also strengthened disease surveillance and emergency systems. The Surveillance Directorate has been embedded in NaCOVERC throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We have also operationalised an effective network of ambulances right across all district hospitals in the country.
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“We have not just constructed health facilities across the country, we are equipping them with diagnostic laboratories, sufficient beds, and other equipment. We have secured oxygen generator plants in Bo and Kenema. In addition, my Government has allocated over 75 billion Leones to refurbishing, improving, or rebuilding healthcare infrastructure across the country. For the first time in fifteen years, Makeni Government Hospital, Magburaka Government Hospital, Port Loko Government Hospital, Kabala Government Hospital and other regional hospitals in the country will be renovated and made fitter for providing critical health services.
“Several PHUs have been constructed and opened to the public. Partners have also completed a number of health facilities across the country. The private sector and non-governmental organisations have also invested in the health sector. Their interventions have or will increase bed capacity and provide advanced diagnostic services.
“With the expansion and upgrading of health infrastructure, we have trained and hired more nurses, doctors, midwives, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, and community healthcare workers than ever before. We have also reviewed compensation packages for all classes of health staff.
“I am particularly pleased that our COVID-19 vaccination rates are higher than the average for African countries. I thank the workers, healthcare personnel, and citizens who have volunteered themselves to receive these life-saving vaccines. It is my hope that citizens who have not yet done so will avail themselves of the opportunity to access these vaccines and join the world in fighting this disease.
“Our partners, including The Global Fund, The World Bank, the FCDO, and USAID have significantly increased funding to the health sector to hundreds of millions of dollars due to their confidence in our management of funds and the focus and clarity of our strategy to achieve Universal Health Coverage goals.