Of late, there have been mounting concerns about the low progress in Liberia’s health-care delivery system run by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. These concerns range from the slow pace at which construction projects are moving to the lack of drugs and equipment at hospitals, health centers and clinics around the country. Health and Social Welfare Minister Walter Gwenigalie, appearing before the Plenary of the House of Representatives recently, attributed the delays in completing the construction of several health facilities around the country to the insincerity of some construction companies in the country.
Dr. Gwenigale told members of the House of Representatives that most of the incomplete health facilities were awarded to companies through the required process, but such companies have failed to live up to the agreement reached between them and his ministry, specifically mentioning Monwreh international engineering, a Liberian construction firm, which failed miserably, to complete a clinic in District Number Two in Rivercess County, and is now on the run following a legal action by the ministry.
“It is worrisome when people from foreign countries try to help us increase our health facilities give us money, then our own people who are awarded these contracts receive the money and run away; this is not fair and this has been the cause of some of the delays in ongoing health facilities projects around the country,” the Health Minister noted before the House of Representatives, further disclosing that funds currently been misapplied or stolen by these construction firms were given by the British and Irish governments intended to construct ten clinics around the country.
The irony about this matter is that so-called Liberian construction companies that continue to default on agreements are always the ones that continue to receive contracts for government projects-unless the government can tell us why, it will continue to be blamed and not the companies. Another puzzling situation at the door steps of the Health Ministry is the issue of the continuous lack of drugs, ambulances, as well as the poor salaries earned by professional nurses and mid-wives at public health centers across the country. As a result, professionalism and commitment seem not to be at the core of their activities at the health facilities throughout the country.
The lack of drugs at health centers across the country, according to Minister Gwenigalie, is due to low budgetary allocation, noting that only US$2m was allotted for the provision of drugs at the various health centers throughout the country in the Ministry’s budget. The Health Minister, who also expressed lack of knowledge about the discouraging salaries of medical practitioners, said the ministry has two sets of employees- one entitled to incentives, while the others receive salary and incentives. “Those people who are on the payroll are getting twice as much as those people who are getting the incentive,” he told the House’s Plenary last Tuesday.
At the end of the interactions between Gwenigalie and members of the House of Representatives, a unanimously vote was taken for the health ministry to ensure that all unfinished health projects in Rivercess County and other counties be completed in three months. The House also gave the Health Minister a month to submit to it a comprehensive report on government and donor support to the country’s health sector.
While the House of Representatives may be concern and sincere about our the discouraging state of the nation’s health sector despite the huge international support, it must also go beyond mere concern and act sincerely by ensure a revisitation of the US$2m they allotted for the provision of drugs for health facilities throughout the country since the poor state of our health facilities has been blamed on low budgetary allocation by the Health Minister. If the Minister’s attribution is anything to accept, it is about now time for the Liberian Legislature to give more attention to the health sector and further monitor such and any consideration as a way of ensuring a trigger down effect on their respective constituencies/districts across the country wherever there’s a health post/center.
Such new consideration of the allotment must also include an ambulance each for their constituencies, as well as improved salaries benefits for health workers, including professional nurses and mid-wives, if they actually mean well for those they claim they represent. Since the Legislators have vowed to be very robust with renewed vigor in their actions this time around, such robustness must be reflected in positive actions for progress in the Liberian Health Sector, especially in rural Liberia, and not their personal interest as seen in the 2012/2013 budget exercise on Capitol Hill.