WINDHOEK - Governments around the world, especially in developing countries, are now involving the private sector in the development, financing and provision of public health infrastructure and services, and Namibia is not an exception.
Namibia’s Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Bernard Haufiku, this week confirmed that the government will partner with the private sector to address issues facing the public health sector.
He argued that partnering with the private sector would enable governments to collaborate with the private sector in pooling resources, combining the managerial and technical skills of both to improve the health of the population.
Currently, Namibia is faced with a significant shortfall in public health services aggravated by a severe lack of health infrastructure, shortage of human resources, lack of appropriate and basic medical equipment for diagnosis and monitoring the treatment and recovery of patients, Dr Haufiku revealed.
He said the only alternative to increasing access to affordable health care for all and enable earlier diagnosis and treatment of various diseases is by partnering and collaborating with the private sector.
“We are of the view that only partnership with private manufacturing or supplying companies on the principles of public-private partnership (PPP) may lift us out of these perpetual deficiencies and lack of equipment in the ministry,” he said.
Among the issues that need private sector involvement in the construction of essential infrastructure, such as a renal dialysis unit and paediatric intensive care unit.
Dr Haufiku said due to the absence of the two health infrastructure, the country continues to export vast amounts of money to South Africa for the services that the country could have on its own at a reduced financial and human cost.
Last year alone, the government spent N$44 million on sourcing dialysis services from private providers for 278 state patients. He said the amount is much more than the initial cost of renovating the existing Renal Dialysis Unit space at the Windhoek Central Hospital, which is estimated to cost N$16.4 million.
Furthermore, the minister confirmed that the Central Medical Stores has been struggling to fulfil its mandate of ensuring that adequate medicines are available in all health care facilities. He said there is a lack of medicines and essential surgical supplies that require private sector involvement.
The government projects that require PPP ventures include medical equipment leasing to replace the old and obsolete ones.
Furthermore, the government is seeking collaboration for the establishment of the renal dialysis centres, paediatric intensive care unit and burns unit as well as a snakebite ward at the Windhoek Central Hospital, Rundu State Hospital and Oshakati State Hospital.
“We are of the view that only partnership with private manufacturing and supplying companies may lift us from these perpetual deficiencies and lack of medical equipment in the ministry,” Haufiku said.
He said although PPP in itself is not a panacea to public health problems, he is optimistic that if well managed, it can go a long way in leveraging health care in Namibia, as proven in Kenya and India where, through PPP, the ministries of health managed to subsidize treatment at private facilities and facilitate referrals to public facilities for individuals who are unable to meet treatment costs.
This year, Treasury allocated N$6.5 billion of the 2018/19 National Budget to the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
Dr Haufiku indicated that the allocation reflects a reduction of 6.1 percent on the 2017/2018 budget allocation, a situation that saw the ministry fail to absorb graduate nurses, as well as put on hold some of its major projects.
He revealed that in 2017 and early 2018, the ministry received 169 applications for employment from recently graduated registered nurses from local academic institutions, in addition to 174 registered nurses trained under the ministry’s project 2013. However, none of the applications was considered. He said although the positions are there, the ministry does not have the funds to pay them.