Stakeholders discuss Sierra Leone’s health sector challenges

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 April 2019:

ICAP in collaboration with Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation, has officially launched the 2017 Service Availability and Readiness Assessment (SARA) Report, which was followed by a two-day workshop on health data use for decision making.

The event was held at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown on the 16th and 17th April 2019, and was attended by key stakeholders from the district and national levels.  It provided a unique opportunity to launch the SARA report, and also strengthen the capacity of managers and senior MoHS and District Council staffs on using data to make strategic decision.

Unlike the previous SARAs, the 2017 SARA was implemented in all the health facilities in Sierra Leone (census) and the report shows the status of service delivery in the country, especially in the light of the Ebola epidemic.

The SARA report provides essential information on service accessibility and readiness of facilities to provide adequate level of service, for both general and specialized health services and interventions; assessing the equitable and appropriate distribution of services and resources. (Photo – L-R: Health Minister Dr. Alpha Wurie, Dr. Mame Awa Toure, ICAP’s Country Director, Dr. Tushar Singh, Country Director of CDC and WHO Country Representative, Dr. Alex Chimbaru.

According to Dr. Mame Awa Toure, ICAP’s Country Director, ICAP collaborated with the MoHS to conduct a rapid situational analysis aimed at identifying barriers and enablers of data use for decision-making at national, district and health facility levels.

The findings from the situational analysis, indicated that the culture of data use in the health sector was generically low, particularly in making policy-related decisions.

“These results have informed ICAP’s capacity building and training strategy to support data use for decision-making,” Dr. Toure remarked and added that it is against this background that ICAP with funding from CDC is collaborating with the Health Ministry to launch the SARA report and take a deep dive on the SARA results whilst building capacity on various analytical tools available for diagnosing critical health challenges for action.

“ICAP hopes that by going through this process participants will be equipped to replicate similar methods and tools in identifying challenges and finding solutions in their everyday work,” she said.

The World Health Organization’s Country Representative, Dr. Alex Chimbaru said the 2017 Sierra Leone SARA report has a component of data quality which is a novelty.  He described SARA as a comprehensive approach that helps to monitor progress in healthcare delivery performance.

The report, Dr. Chimbaru said will help monitor universal coverage in the health sector. He called for improvement in the health sector and advised that SARA be held on an annual basis. “We should utilize the SARA report for the benefit of the country,” he noted.

Dr. Tushar Singh, Country Director of CDC stated that they are happy to be working with the government to put together quality data and ensure proper data management. He called for the need to put high quality data into action. “SARA helps us to identify risk factors and future trends. We should use data to ensure collective action for improved health outcomes,” he advised.

Minister of Health, Dr. Alpha Tejan Wurie said the government is happy to have such a report, which serves as a guide in managing the health sector. “It will help us to get things right in the health sector”.

The Minister furthered that even though some of its recommendations have been implemented, his Ministry will do its best to ensure effective service delivery and good decision-making in the health systems.

Towards the closing of the launch, the MoHS and ICAP presented the major findings from the SARA report, overview of data used for decision-making and problem prioritization matrix. Following the presentation, participants took part in group work exercise, using the problem prioritization matrix to prioritize gaps/problems identified by SARA.

About ICAP

ICAP began working in Sierra Leone in 2014, partnering with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation on an assessment of the community care centers established as part of the nation’s Ebola outbreak response.

Infection prevention and control continues to be the backbone of ICAP’s work in Sierra Leone, with a focus on building health system resiliency and responsiveness through quality improvement and human resource development.

ICAP at Columbia University is a global health leader since 2003, with one overarching goal: to improve the health of families and communities. Together with its partners, ICAP strives for a world where health is available to all.

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