Public-private partnerships in Africa’s health sector on the increase

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As public-private partnerships continue to grow in Africa’s health sector, public healthcare on the continent continues to bleed as healthcare workers leave for private practice.

Health authorities from Uganda, Lesotho, Ghana and Namibia gathered in Johannesburg to discuss the triumphs and challenges of public-private partnerships in the healthcare sector.

Government continues to be the largest provider of healthcare in most African countries. In countries like Namibia, 85% of patients receive treatment from state facilities.

These services burden the government purse and in an attempt to ease the burden, authorities want to introduce a way they can share the burden. This will see private healthcare providers sharing spaces with their public counter parts.

“What the co-sharing concept means is that the healthcare will be at our facility because we have a lot of facilities that are very old and not good in terms of providing quality healthcare. But when someone wants to put up a hospital of say 500 beds and we have a facility with 1 000 beds, maybe we can navigate through those process and try and see if they can occupy our buildings, bringing all the technology, provide care that our people need. Then we don’t have people that go to a private facility looking for those things like an MRI but use our facility,” says Juliet Kavetuna, who is the Deputy Health Minister of Namibia.

While Namibia is making inroads in growing private sector participation in its health sector, Ghana has 60% of their citizens relying on public healthcare.

The country has systems in place to ensure citizens are able to benefit from private healthcare infrastructure.

“What the government has done is do a collaboration between public hospitals and those belonging to faith-based organisation is that the government acknowledges the ownership rights of these hospitals. But in terms of personnel who worked at these hospitals, they all trained in public institutions and they are paid by the government so that these faith-based organisation will get a return on the investment. This partnership ensures that the service there and those at government hospitals is the same,” says Alexander Abban, Deputy Health Minister of Ghana.

While most countries present have different experiences, most agree that the financial attraction towards the private is causing a huge brain drain. This as most health workers choose to follow the money.

According to countries represented at the summit, this is a challenge that is yet to be completely addressed.