GEDIAH TOWN, River Cess – Health Minister Wilhelmina Jallah paid a one-day working visit to River Cess on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, to assess the impact of the Community Health Assistant program established four years ago.
The CHA program assigns community volunteers to communities to assist health authorities in mapping, identification, and registration of pregnant women. A community health assistant also registers the number of deaths in their assigned community, as part of an overall goal of improving health care delivery in the community.
According to the Ministry of Health’s communication consultant, Sorbor George, the visit is the first leg of the minister’s tour covering counties in the southeast. During the tour, the minister and other officials, such as the director of Community Health and the coordinator of County Health Services, will meet with health providers and county officials.
Min. Jallah made a brief stop at the Gbediah Community Clinic in Central River Cess District where she held a meeting with health workers. During the meeting, health workers told Jallah that the facility had delivered 13 babies during December 2018. The facility’s monthly target is 16 deliveries.
Health workers also told the minister that community health assistants were helping community members see the importance of using the health facility for deliveries, instead of delivering at home, which is considered riskier.
The minister also had a brief discussion with one of the community health assistants in Wayzon Community in Timbo District. As a community health assistant, Janet Jududoe treats malaria, diarrhea, and other illnesses in children less than five years of age.
Jududoe noted that she does not always receive the cooperation of the community in discharging her duties as a community volunteer. She wants more awareness created to allow community members to understand her role and cooperate with her.
In Cestos, the minister toured the different departments of the St. Francis Hospital in addition to the facilities of the River Cess County Health Team.
At the end of the tour, a meeting was held with health care providers and county officials in the conference room of the River Cess County Health Team.
During the meeting, Andrew Gueh, the director of the Community Health Department, presented on the progress and challenges of the community health program in River Cess.
In his presentation, Gueh said the program is making a significant impact on the health delivery system of the county.
“Workload at the various facilities has reduced drastically because our CHAs are treating the under-fives in the community,” Gueh said. “Because pregnant women are being referred by these CHAs, maternal deaths have also reduced.”
Gueh said the county’s health team had recorded 5 maternal and 30 neonatal deaths in 2018, which he said was far less than the deaths recorded in 2017, although he did not say what the figures were in 2017.
River Cess’ county health officer, Dr. Joseph N. Topor, confirmed the report made by Gueh. He also highlighted challenges faced by the county’s health team.
“Delay of staff incentives, budgetary allotment, and logistics, as well as the shortage of essential drugs, are some of our challenges,” he said.
In response, Jallah assured the health workers that their plights would be addressed, “but not as fast as expected.”
Jallah noted that the ministry is planning on training nurses to handle neonatal cases in the counties to reduce neonatal deaths across Liberia. She also said the ministry would examine other issues, including staff rotation and the creation of regional drug depots.
River Cess’ assistant superintendent for development, Amos Somah, attended the meeting, where he thanked the minister for visiting the county.
The 2016 Household Income and Expenditure Survey by the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services placed River Cess’ population at 87,282. There are 20 functional health facilities, 6 health districts, 72 nurses, and 2 medical doctors in the county. The St. Francis Hospital is the only referral hospital in River Cess.
Under the Community Health Assistant Program being implemented by Last Mile Health, there are 24 community health services supervisors, 287 community health assistants, and 6 quality assurance officers working to ensure that community dwellers make use of health facilities in their communities.
Featured photo by Eric Opa Doue