The Interview Paidamoyo Chipunza
Government recently announced that it has embarked on a massive rehabilitation programme of public health institutions. Health and Child Care Minister, Dr Obadiah Moyo (Dr OM) speaks to our Senior Health Reporter Paidamoyo Chipunza (PC) on his goals, source of funding and implementation of this rehabilitation programme.
PC: What do you seek to achieve with these Joint Venture Partnerships?
Dr Moyo: We want to make sure that the health facility is of very high quality, providing first class services. We want to make sure that our customers are accessing affordable services within easy reach, making sure that all the facilities are well rehabilitated. Our facilities have sat for a long time without any major rehabilitation. At the same time, we need to replenish all the institutions with medicines so that it makes sense. We want to make sure that our facilities are not death-traps, they are hygienic and that they are clean facilities.
However, for us to be able to tackle all these problems as a Government and on our own, we cannot be able to fulfil it that’s why you hear the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra and it also includes the health industry. We want investors in the health industry to come and provide services, to come and invest and be able to institute higher levels of management in terms of patient care in our institutions. We want to be able to come up with super specialist hospitals and ensure that we do not send people out of Zimbabwe for specialist treatments but that everything is done locally, here in Zimbabwe.
We have to look for partners who have the capability- the financial capability and the general know how and can be able to impart medical knowledge to our people.
So it’s not just a matter of partners for the sake of partners, its partners who have the capability to train our people who can be able to set up all the relevant high quality care parameters within our institutions.
PC: I have seen adverts from Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) inviting bidders for these JVPs. Which other hospitals are earmarked for rehabilitation under these JVPs?
Dr O.M: We are looking into entering JVPs with potential investors who are in a position to establish these facilities and be able to come up with training facilities as well, besides provision of medical care. So, already as part of our 100-day plan, Parirenyatwa is earmarked and we are already moving into the other central hospitals like Mpilo, United Bulawayo Hospitals and so forth. We want to do it in phases. We have had some responses from Parirenyatwa. There are some foreign investors who have shown some interest so we are waiting to finalise that.
PC: How has been the response so far?
Dr O.M: There are lots of foreign companies with local consortiums as well who are interested in participating and partnering with the ministry and its various institutions to ensure that we bring forward this super specialisation type of infrastructure within our institutions .We have to move forward, we have to spruce up our hospitals and the only way we can do it at this stage is by partnering with foreign investors who have the foreign currency, especially, so that they can be able to bring in new equipment for us and medicines.
So the situation will be, the partner, through having foreign currency reserves, they will be able to rehabilitate the infrastructure, bringing new equipment and at the same time bring in medicines so that the facility where they are operating from is continuously served with medicines. At the same time, we are also looking at the fact that, take Parirenyatwa Hospital for instance, they have 21 theatres and most of them are not working so we would expect the partner to refurbish those theatres and putting robotic equipment for the theatres so that we bring our hospital way-way up to standard. The investor should be able to also look up the cardiac issues, the renal issues, neurological issues, all sorts and then come up with a diagnostic centres which are well equipped.
We want a situation where we have diagnostic equipment which is fully functional, laboratories equipment, which is fully functional and fully supported in terms of reagents that are used there, so it is a marathon task, but it is necessary because we are way behind the other countries and we have to catch up.
PC: What will be the cost implication of these JVPs on affordability of public healthcare?
Dr O.M: It will not affect the cost of health care. What is happening is that the socially disadvantaged are the ones who are going to be benefiting. A client will arrive at the reception of the hospital and the client will have a choice of either going to the usual hospital as it is now but upgraded to a five star level, so it is an advantage. There is no change in the cost. The socially disadvantaged will access the facilities as usual and then if someone feels that they have got some money and their medical aid will be able to cover for that cost they got an option of going into a private unit.
These private units will not interfere with the day-to-day running of the usual hospital.
So we are identifying a small section within a hospital, which is given to the private investor and they operate their facility there and they will be able to utilise the same common services like radiology, pharmacy, theatre. There will be that inter-sharing of the common services between those who go to the private sector and those who go to the public sector but the most important thing is that the poor and the socially disadvantaged are still going to have there choice to go to the usual facility, which is earmarked as a public facility at the same cost, without any further increase in the cost because these costs are governed by Government.
PC: When do you expect the first project under this initiative to take off?
DR O.M: Well, already we have bidders for Parirenyatwa Hospital. There are quite a few who have sent through their bids indicating their interest in these Joint Venture Initiatives, so we wait for Parirenyatwa Hospital to look at them advise us. At the same time, United Bulawayo Hospitals, has already entered into some other private arrangement for orthopaedic services. They are already at a very advanced stage, put up fantastic orthopaedic unit there and they want to identify other units where they can enter into Joint Venture Partnerships on a Build, Operate and Transfer basis. Mpilo has also advertised, so we will see how it will go before spreading across the country in that fashion. Chitungwiza Central Hospital has already been running that type of Joint Venture Partnerships and that is what has made Chitungwiza survive. Things are available, to some extent, just because we were utilising the corporate world to come and give assistance.
PC: But the Chitungwiza Central Hospital model has faced its criticism from other sectors…
Dr O.M: Obviously, we realise that we also have to improve the working arrangement with our partners. At Chitungwiza, we are revamping that model. It’s already a model that is accepted Africa wide and we’ve had people coming through from different African countries so, we have modified it so that there is independence of choice with regards to where a client would want to get treatment from. Patients will have a choice of going to the private or public side but the advantage is that, that investor who would be operating a private section would have upgraded other services within the same health facility.