Stakeholders from a just-ended National Dialogue on Health Financing Reform in Liberia are calling for the reintroduction of the Revolving Drugs Fund (RDF) in all public health facilities.
A press release from the Ministry of Health says stakeholders, including county health officers, superintendents, legislators, civil society organizations and faith-based institutions, say when reintroduced, the RDF will ease problems of drug shortage and increase threat of drug resistance as the Fund ensures availability of quality medicines and medical supplies in public health institutions.
The RDF was one of the mechanisms introduced in 1985 by the Government of Liberia to ensure availability of essential medicines and enhance health quality at all public facilities.It was built on community ownership, stewardship and mutual accountability and used to greatly address issues of drugs and medical supply.
In a 14-count resolution at the end of a three-day dialogue recently, participants note that the current free healthcare policy introduced by the previous administration is not effective, and as such, a minimum cost recovery fee should be instituted.
“That the current free health care policy poses challenges to the achievement of universal healthcare, as such cost recovery fees at minimum cost be instituted at all public facilities where feasible and effective; there will be human rights-based exemption for key population and the criteria for exemption from cost recovery fees be reviewed periodically to ensure that poor and vulnerable populations maintain equitable access to services as a human right following the introduction of compulsory national social health insurance scheme”, the resolution reads.
Among other things, it also calls on government to establish a separate institution by law to manage the Liberia Health Equity Fund and allocates percentage of domestic tax revenues as well as initiates other innovative financing mechanisms, to support the health sector financial reform.The three-day health financing discussants also plead that government allocates a seed fund for the initiation of the RDF mechanism.
The resolution was presented to the government through the Ministry of Health at the climax of the national dialogue on health financing reform held recently in Ganta, Nimba County.Receiving the document, Deputy Health Minister for Planning, Vaifee Tulay, described it as a significant step towards reforming the nation’s health sector.
Mr. Tulay assured the participants that the Ministry will seek full endorsement of the Executive for implementation.He dismissed views that the document for health sector reform may not be endorsed; adding, “Let us not be skeptical.”The dialogue highlighted current challenges in the health system, including limited financial resources, drugs and medical supplies at public health facilities.
Presentations were made on three major functions of health financing, including resource mobilization, risk pooling and strategic purchasing.
The dialogue also featured series of panel discussions led by an array of experts in the health sector, focusing on the RDF and user fees for service with focus on lessons learned from pre-war Liberia, building consensus and lessons learned from the West African Region and the Joint Learning Network for Universal Coverage (JIN) and faith-based organizations.
–Editing by Jonathan Browne