Public-private partnerships offer new hope for ailing health sector

The South African government’s health service has gone running back to the private sector to help fix “dilapidated public hospitals”, according to a report by Tamar Kahn which appeared in the Business Day. The government’s 2002 hospital revitalisation scheme, it says, “has seen projects delayed and budgets blown” – resulting in an “infrastructure backlog at state health facilities”.

According to the report “The department estimates it will cost more than R57bn to clear the infrastructure backlog at state health facilities, and says it needs the private sector to help revamp the biggest tertiary hospitals — Chris Hani Baragwanath in Soweto, George Mukhari in Ga-Rankuwa, King Edward VIII in Durban, Nelson Mandela in Mthatha, and Limpopo Academic in Polokwane”.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said “We shall be using the same experience the country used in producing massive 2010 (World Cup) infrastructure to produce massive state of the art health infrastructure,”

In a welcome change Tamar also notes that as well as bringing in the private sector to improve the infrastructure, clinical services may also be outsourced to experienced private sector providers.

Currently all the so-called “hotel services” are outsourced to the private sector such as cleaning, catering and gardening but the government continues to hold onto the most vital service namely clinical care. Tamar notes “There are already examples of this, such as the renal dialysis partnership between the Limpopo health department and Fresenius subsidiary Clinix Renal Care at the Polokwane Hospital Complex, and 14 partnerships between Life Healthcare subsidiary Life Esidimeni and provincial health departments to provide chronic mental care, rehabilitation, and frail care”.

As Health Policy Unit director Jasson Urbach explained in his article America’s “NHI”halted, the state may fund some health costs, but it must still allow healthcare providers to compete, drive down prices and provide the poor with high quality medical care.

Source: Tamar Kahn Public-private partnerships offer new hope for ailing health sector Business Day 23 March, 2010

For Text:

FMF Policy Bulletin/ 23 March 2010

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