By Foday Moriba Conteh
President Julius Maada Bio has on the 7th April,2022 addressed the opening of the 2022 National Health Summit at the Freetown International Conference Center, Bintumani Hotel, awarded diligent healthcare workers, saying that the theme: “Health Promotion for Well-being, Equity and Sustainable Development” aligns with his commitments.
“This year’s theme resonates with goals my Government set in our manifesto commitments five years ago and outcomes we described and have been working towards in our Medium-Term National Development Plan. It also aligns with international commitments we have made to work toward Universal Health Coverage and Sustainable Development Goals”.
He used the occasion to thank development partners, friends, policymakers, and most especially, healthcare workers right across Sierra Leone for believing in, supporting, and working assiduously toward a collective vision of improving health outcomes and providing equitable access to affordable, quality healthcare.
“Exactly three years ago at TED in Vancouver…, I challenged…that ‘the most audacious and nation-changing events or policies or even personal choices happen when we ask, ‘Why not,’ then make bold choices, and ensure those bold choices happen.’ We made a bold choice to improve human capital development.
“We asked ourselves ‘why not’ enhance and expand a national ambulance service; develop focused strategic plans and health sector policies; restructure our disease surveillance systems and successfully fight off epidemics and pandemics; operationalize an affordable health insurance scheme; introduce an innovative national health-on-wheels scheme; revamp the leadership and rework the future of health care delivery in this country; and, work with the private sector on new infrastructure and other investments? All of these we have achieved and more,” he said.
Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr Austin Demby said that the country’s health system had an enviable structure with about 85% of the population within a five-kilometer distance of a health facility, saying that hospital services remained central and critical to the attainment of Universal Health Coverage, UHC, which was about leaving no one behind and providing timely, appropriate, and high-quality services at an affordable price for every citizen.
“Implementing the life stages approach to achieving UHC will ultimately lead to accelerated gains in the country’s Human Capital Development. The ministry wants to reduce the maternal mortality rate from 717 to 300/100,000 live births, reduce the infant mortality rate from 75 to 28/1000 live births, reduce the adolescent birth rate from 102 to 50/1000 live births and increase life expectancy from 54-58 years,” he said.
Minister of Finance II, Bockarie Kalokoh, said they were key in transforming health service delivery to UHC, adding that they believed access to quality healthcare services was an investment in Human Capital Development.
He added that a robust and well-implemented scheme would increase workers’ productivity, which in turn would boost output, drive revenue collection, and increase the Government’s revenue base to allow available fiscal space for the implementation of critical priority programmes that would ultimately lead to national economic growth and development.
Speaking in her capacity as an African Champion for Sanitation and Hygiene, First Lady Fatima Bio said it was a remarkable day to celebrate a major milestone in the health sector, adding that a lot of transformation is happening in the sector since 2018. She argued that for a nation to develop there must be a strong healthcare system to take adequate care of the citizens of that country.
Fatima Bio stated that healthcare was closer to her heart and that was why she became a major crusader for the 34 Military Hospital to be transformed into a state-of-the-art hospital that would provide sophisticated treatment and teaching facilities for healthcare workers.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone, Dr Babatunde Ahonsi addressed the summit and congratulated President Julius Maada Bio for his leadership in spearheading the prevention and control of the pandemic, saying that the COVID-19 pandemic had negatively impacted socio-economic development the world over, including the health sector where there had been disruption of health services.