By Bill W. Cooper
In an effort to build a vibrant health sector, the government of Liberia through the Montserrado County Health Team with its implementing partner, International Rescue Committee (IRC) with funding support from the GIZ Liberia has launched the Montserrado County Supporting Referrals and Community Linkages with the Integrated Severe Infections Treatment Unit (InSITU) programme Project in the country.
The project which was officially launched at the Du-port Road Health Center in Paynesville yesterday, was aimed at “Consolidate and Transfer the Experience gained during the Ebola Crisis from a range of external actors to local actors, directly supporting the County Health Teams (CHTs) and Ministry of Health (MOH) to Evaluate, Amend, and Operationalize EPR plans to effectively lead Epidemic response; Strengthen Community Resilience through engagement around Epidemic response planning,” as representatives from key sectors were present including the Ministry of Health (MOH), National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL).
Launching the project un-behalf of the Chief Medical Officer of Liberia, the Director of Healthcare Quality Management Unit at the MOH, Dr. Ngormbu Ballah indicated that the launching of the InSITU programme project is laudable, something he said is worthwhile undertaking project that will help the MOH in moving the HealthCare delivery forward.
According to Dr. Ballah, the importance of referral or communities leakages could not be overemphasized, as the community is the heartbeat of the country healthcare delivery system, noting that any public health practitioners or policy makers that want to succeed in healthcare delivery have to be a very good friend to the community.
“When the community is unwilling to cooperate with you, you are not going to achieve your goal or anything. If you even decide to do contact tracing, you will not achieve it. That’s why I think if we start our healthcare delivery at the level of the community, we are very likely to succeed, Dr. Ballah added.
“Early referral is one thing we have to consider. As we work with the community, we should also be thinking about how we get our patience from the community to places that they can go and be kept for care or for texting, he alluded.
Dr. Ballah then stressed the needs for the government to take ownership of the project in order for the sustainability aspect of it, disclosing that, during the Ebola outbreak, the Unions’ and other partners brought in a lot of project that was place around the country but are now been used for other purposes.
Earlier, the Country Director of IRC-Liberia, Faith Cooper disclosed that the IRC-Liberia country program has developed a dynamic and effective working relationship with the Redemption Hospital in recent years, including supporting the restoration of health services at the Hospital following the closure during the Ebola epidemic.
According to Director Cooper, throughout 2016, the IRC led the OFDA-funded Epidemic Preparedness and Response (EPR) Consortium which supported all 15 County Health Teams (CHTs) and the MOH to improve their EPR systems through a nationally coordinated yet county-tailored strategy to strengthen the technical and operational capacity of the County and District Health Teams.
She then added that, with globalization and increasingly interconnected communities, everyone are at risk with no exceptions when it comes to infectious diseases, indicating that one of the most essential lessons that have been learned from the Ebola response in the country has been intentional, well-coordinated community engagement is paramount when it comes to effective infectious disease surveillance and response activities.
Giving the overview of the project, IRC-Liberia Deputy Director of programs, Yvonne Kodl mentioned that the project which will last for the next Nine Months was funded by GIZ, as they are targeting all Districts in Montserrado County, including Redemption Hospital and other selected health centers in the county.
She further stated that their goals at the end of the project is to support MOH, MCHT and NPHIL by updating and expanding current surveillance system, as well as encouraging community engagement and reporting of integrated Disease surveillance and response (IDSR) disease among others, stressing “some of our objectives are operational county EPR plan is revised and linked to the InSITU, operational county referral pathways are revised and linked to the InSITU and strengthen community engagement by supporting links between community structures, health facilities and the INSITU.”
In separate remarks, the MCHT, WHO, and NPHIL all lauded the GIZ for funding the project and called on the government to take ownership of the project in order to maintain it, as the County Health Officer pledge the government support in working with the National level to allocate funding for the sustainability of the project, pointing out that the project was the first of its kind in the county, as they are targeting about 227 health centers around county.