Investors: Costly access to finance hurting health sector investments

Dr Antoine Muyombano, Chairman of Rwanda Private Medical Facilities Association (right), interacts with his deputy Dr Dominique Savio Mugenzi during the meeting in Kigali yesterday. / Sam Ngendahimana

Private investors in the health sector still find it hard to establish and equip their facilities because of the high cost of medical equipment and the unfriendly conditions of access to finance.

Under their umbrella organisation, the Rwanda Private Medical Facilities Association (RPMFA), owners of private hospitals, clinics, among other facilities, raised the issue during their second ordinary general assembly in Kigali yesterday.

According to the medics, specialised medical equipment like CT scans, MRI scans, and endoscopy, among others are pricey yet financial institutions like banks have not put in place measures to make it easy for them to access finance that would help them to acquire such.

Dr Antoine Muyombano, the Head of Polyclinique du Plateau, said that lack of some equipment still hinders them from growing their services to give Rwandans more decent services.

He lamented the fact that there is no special attention given to healthcare investors by financial institutions, yet it is a special profession since it touches lives of people.

This, he said, ends up requiring them to use yields they make from their practice, which are not enough to fund the developments they aim at.

“The problem is that banks have some unfriendly conditions for medics as far as access to finance is concerned. They should be able to put in place loans that are payable over a long time, and are of a lower interest rate for us so that we can be able to buy these expensive equipment,” he said.

Dr Emmanuel Rudakemwa, the Chairman Rwanda Medical and Dental Council, the regulatory body of the medical profession, said that as the country aims at private sector-led economy, the health sector should also be given attention.

“The health and education sectors are enablers of development, which means it is necessary that we put in place programmes to lower the cost of healthcare,” he said.

Among the solutions, Rudakemwa highlighted the need to attract manufacturers to Rwanda. He reckoned that the prices of equipment can go lower if they are manufactured or assembled in the country.

“Many equipment that we use are not manufactured in the country. This is a similar case with other African countries, equipment come from outside, and there are many dynamics that cause their prices to go high,” he said.

“If we manage to have these equipment manufactured or assembled here, it would reduce the prices.”

In addition, Rudakemwa said that there is also need to improve local capacity of maintenance and servicing of the equipment (biomedical engineering),

“Biomedical engineering also makes healthcare expensive. We are yet to have many Rwandans with capacity to repair medical equipment once they get a problem. So, you find that to maintain our equipment, we need a relationship with the manufacturers for these services. You find that you can pay about 100,000 for these services every year,” he said.

About access to finance, he said that advocacy is being done for banks to bring down barriers, including collateral and high interest rates.

“Collateral makes it hard for medics to access loans,” he said.

He also called upon healthcare investors to unite in order to come up with bigger facilities instead of setting up smaller individual clinics.

Further reporting by Simon Peter Kaliisa.