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The Ministry of Health (MoH) in collaboration with the Private Health Sector Program (PHSP) and World Health Organization (WHO) held a two day national forum on how private companies can help improve health care access.
The forum entitled “The Private Health Sector in Ethiopia at a Crossroads” focused on public private partnerships, regulations and financing. It also attempted to develop solutions for optimizing, regulating and cementing public private partnerships for sustainable, universal access to healthcare.
“Private health companies have not won the trust of the government and public because of misperceptions and exaggerated anecdotes. Of greater concern, however, is that if unregulated, the private health sector can sometimes do more harm than good. This is shared by health experts and advocates,” said Tesfai Gabrekidan, Chief of Party, USAID/PHSP.
Despite all the progress, the health system in Ethiopia still faces serious challenges including a shortage of qualified human resources and lack of sustainable financing. The task is complex and can only be solved through enhanced partnership between the public and private sector, one participant said.
The cost of delivering health care in developed and developing countries has been rising quickly due to new trends such as an ageing population, the increase of non-communicable and chronic diseases, and rapidly changing and advancing medical technologies. With restricted budgets and limited resources for expanding basic health services, governments are looking to public private partnerships to contain costs and improve health outcomes hoping to achieve critical goals in their health care policies, another presenter at the conference argued.
“New health trends and challenges present opportunities for the private sector to compliment public priorities with ethical leadership and principles to improve access efficiency and quality of social and community services. This is especially relevant now as the international community begins to look beyond the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and start defining a post 2015 agenda,” said Pierre Mpele-Kilebou, WHO Ethiopia Representative.
According to the National Health Accounts report, private health companies account for over 40 percent of the curative and rehabilitative services in Ethiopia. This trend is in sync with other sub-Saharan countries.
“Private health care companies are gaining momentum. Today’s private sector forum is taking place under the leadership of the Ministry of Health, which signals a strong commitment from the Government to promote a meaningful partnership with the private players in health,” said Dennis Weller, USAID Mission Director.
“USAID is encouraged with this development and will be keen to see more openness in the coming years as we work to create better health services for the Ethiopian people, which is the bottom line for all of us,” he added.
The Forum was held at the Hilton Hotel from March 26 to 27.