Murekezi rallies for more investment into healthcare

Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi, yesterday, called upon the region’s private sector to take a lead in enhancing service delivery acoss the health sector of the five-member East African Community (EAC) bloc.
Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi (L) chats with the State minister for Public Health and Primary Health Care, Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi, at the fourth conference of the East Africa Healthcare Federation in Kigali yesterday. (All photos by T. Kisambira)
Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi (L) chats with the State minister for Public Health and Primary Health Care, Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi, at the fourth conference of the East Africa Healthcare Federation in Kigali yesterday. (All photos by T. Kisambira)

Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi, yesterday, called upon the region’s private sector to take a lead in enhancing service delivery acoss the health sector of the five-member East African Community (EAC) bloc.

Opening the fourth conference of the East Africa Healthcare Federation (EAHF), in Kigali yesterday, Murekezi said the new landscape of global health care shows tremendous opportunities for healthcare providers in enabling the regulatory environment.

“When talking about health systems, people tend to think about primarily public sector and give less importance to the private sector. And this is of course wrong.

‘‘The main role of governments in the health sector should primarily be putting in place the vision, policies and regulations,” Murekezi said.

“The private sector has to play a very big role in the implementation of national healthcare programmes, including quality clinical services, health insurance schemes, investments in health infrastructure, equipment and their supply, in partnership with governments, health based organisations, the civil society and development partners.”

For Rwanda’s case, he said, the push should be viewed in the prisms of the government agenda where the private sector is expected to be the key driver of the economy.

Murekezi said that due to private investments in the health sector, Rwanda has recorded such achievements as establishment of 70 private pharmacies, 249 retail pharmacies, 206 private health facilities including two hospitals, 19 polyclinics and 65 clinics.

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PM Murekezi gives his opening remarks during the East African Health Federation meeting in Kigali, yesterday.

Participants are examining the role of the private sector in financial sustainability of healthcare delivery systems.

“I want to assure all of you that the governments of the East African Community will be happy to receive your recommendations and give them special attention for implementation,” said Murekezi.

Dr Rogers Ayiko, a global health specialist working at the EAC Secretariat as the Principal Health Systems and Policy Officer, said that during the fifth annual East African Health and Scientific Conference held in Kampala, in March, one of the key issues discussed was delivery of services and financing.

The Kigali conference, he added, comes at an opportune moment when the EAC is looking at a number of policies including a protocol of regional cooperation on health; and an EAC health policy which has universal health coverage and improved financing among objectives.

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State minister for health Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi, speaks during the East African Health Federation at Hotel Serena.

An EAC study published last year indicated that 38 per cent of the bloc’s population is below the poverty line, which sheds light on people’s capacity to pay for healthcare services.

Government contribution to health sector in the region is estimated at nine per cent, on average. Insurance coverage of all forms in the EAC also stands at 25 per cent.

Dr Ayiko said insurance coverage ranges from around one per cent in Uganda to around 90 percent in Rwanda.

Dr. Ayiko said: “There is a lot of variance and there are many factors that can be attributed to this, including the policies put in place in support of social protection mechanisms. That said, the EAC is trying to push forward a health agenda but the fact is that the public sector alone cannot do it. The role of the private sector is very key.”

The EAC Treaty provides for mechanisms to support private sector engagements in the region’s development and integration agenda.

Dr Amit Thakker, CEO of the Kenya Healthcare Federation observed that partner states have to keenly examine common challenges as the situation in the EAC is not all rosy.

Presenting a chart on the global situation regarding the top 250 countries in Africa, he noted that health does not feature in top world businesses. The economy of South Africa, the second largest in Africa, (behind Nigeria), only has banking, insurance, telecommunications, and others in its top businesses but no healthcare.

“In the top 10 companies of east Africa, there is no health [company]. We need to drive healthcare to a level that will put it on the map,” Dr Thakker said.

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Participants listen to presentations.

According to Felix Ingabire, of the Rwanda Office of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a British multinational pharmaceutical firm, the Rwandan government has put in place a strategy and vision and he expects the private sector to implement the strategy in terms of clinical services, the bigger supply chain, as well as equipment and insurance services.

GSK, in partnership with One Family Health Foundation, Ecobank, and the Ministry of Health have established 90 health posts across 11 Rwandan districts.

They are partnering with  the government to construct, equip, and provide training and technical assistance to 36 health posts in the country’s most remote communities. The ongoing three-day meeting has attracted delegates from 43 countries.

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