Medical Insurance, Tourism Key as Regional Private Health Providers Conference Opens

Private healthcare providers in the East African Region are pushing for collaborations to cut down on the number of foreign medical referrals within member countries.

Experts from 16 countries in Africa who are gathering in Kampala for the annual East Africa Healthcare Federation Conference expressed the need for collaborations by medical providers to work on tertiary health procedures that are mostly sought abroad.

Dr Ian Clarke, the Chairperson of Uganda Healthcare Federation (UHF), an umbrella body for private providers in Uganda told journalists on the sidelines of the event, that MP Shah, a hospital in Nairobi is starting kidney transplants soon and instead of flying to India, it will be cost-effective for Ugandans to seek this service in Nairobi.

He said they are seeking such collaborations with others in the region so that countries support each other on services that they have a comparative advantage on.

Dr Kanyenje Gakombe, the Chairperson of the Kenya Healthcare Federation said there are even more sustainable ways that health facilities across the region can collaborate by bringing the hospitals closer to the people.  

Giving an example of multinational companies where banks such as Kenya Commercial Bank operate within Uganda, the same can happen in Uganda for hospitals which can also save lives in emergency cases that succumb in transition.

Gakombe who is also the founder of Metropolitan Hospital in Nairobi says countries should make sure that they provide emergency care and only refer to medical tourism cases that don’t make sense in terms of investment.

Grace Ssali Kiwanuka, the Executive Director of Uganda Healthcare Federation says private hospitals will need the government to play a part by not only engaging in public-private partnerships but also offering them tax incentives and equipment placement contracts to enable them to fully take part in offering tertiary care that is mostly sought abroad.

Responding to these concerns, however, Expeditus Ahimbisibwe the Principal Planner at the Ministry of Health said they are already offering private health providers incentives to thrive such as not taxing medical equipment and ambulances.

He says COVID-19 taught them that collaborations with private providers can yield good results for the population.

This was re-echoed by Prof. Khama Rogo, the former Head of the World Bank Group’s Health in Africa Initiative who delivered the keynote address.  Khama said the minute government hospitals meet and compete with private facilities in offering a good service, the cost of healthcare will go down.  

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