MONROVIA, Montserrado – The county health officer for Montserrado is calling on the government and international partners to subsidize private health facilities across the country.
Yatta Sackie Wapoe, who also owns the J. J. Memorial Health Center in the VOA East Community on the Robertsfield Highway, made the statement as she commemorated her health facility’s one year of existence.
Wapoe, whose facility opened in March 2017, said the sustainability of private health facilities is a challenge.
She said while her primary goal was to provide quality health services to the immediate community and not to profit from the institution, she has not yet finished paying off the US$100,000 loan she obtained to construct the facility.
“We have had challenges ranging from the staff leaving and seeking greener pastures, to procuring of basic essential drugs, electricity, among others,” she said. “We are still struggling.”
Wapoe said she spends US$2,000 monthly to purchase fuel to run the facility generator because “the Liberia Electricity Corporation is yet to extend its service to the community.”
Wapoe said former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s quest to have free health service in the country has been misinterpreted and now Liberians do not want to pay for health service. But she noted that even if a service comes free or subsidized to the end user, someone still had to bear the cost.
She highlighted the role private facilities are playing in ensuring health care delivery in Liberia. Only 60 of Montserrado’s 286 health facilities are public facilities, meaning that 79 percent of facilities are private.
“The government needs to work and subsidize private health facilities and make sure that they are working in line with its policy,” she said, adding that if those private facilities disappear, the government-run ones would not be able to cater to the over 1.4 million population of Montserrado.
Wapoe’s facility already benefits a little from government assistance. Docas Johnson Sackie, the health center’s nursing manager, said the facility has treated over 500 patients for different illnesses, with malaria being the most common.
“Anti-malaria drugs supplied to the facility by the Health Ministry are issued free of charge to patients,” Sackie said.
“We are also providing free consultations through community awareness that leads to free health care services at the facility.”
The call for the government to assist private facilities comes at a time when public facilities themselves are not receiving enough funds to operate sufficiently. Redemption Hospital has been in the news lately due to limited funds to operate. The chief medical officer of the Jackson F. Doe Hospital, Dr. James Sobboh, has also raised an alarm about growing financial constraints with the hospital’s operations.
However, private entities that are politically connected find it much easier being included in the national budget, as Rep. Jeremiah Koung’s E & J Medical Center received US$285,000 in the 2016/2017 fiscal year.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah