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Private health providers call for affordable credit to progress provision of health care

News | The Northern Link UG | Private Health providers in Uganda have called for the provision of affordable financing through a medical credit scheme that facilitates the growth of health care in the country.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday 30th, Grace Ssali Kiwanuka, the executive Director Uganda Healthcare Federation said that key healthcare cost drivers are that over 80% of the medicines are imported and vulnerable to global market forces, health businesses face commercial interest rates on equipment and infrastructure as well as rental costs for some equipment.

“Health like agriculture has unique characteristics that should be considered differently, thus like agricultural credit fund, there is a need for a low-interest financing mechanism tailored for the health sector,” Ssali said.

She explained that the last year since the outbreak of COVID 19 in Uganda has underscored the vulnerabilities of Uganda’s healthcare system and that through discussions and analysis, together with the Ministry of Health and the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council, Healthcare practitioners have come to a mutual understanding of the true cost of healthcare service provision in the private healthcare sector.

“Discussions have resulted in the realization of the need to collaborate in order to curb the cost of care resulting from the financial weight of imported medicines and consumables, utility costs and access to quality affordable protective equipment to mitigate infections in frontline health workers,” Ssali further said.

Ssali also underscored the need to support the National Health Insurance Schemes. “Ugandans are facing difficult times financially. The effects of the pandemic on the economy have meant the loss of incomes across all socio-economic groups. The availability of national health insurance would give access to essential health services without delays and when care is needed without financial constraint.”

She said private providers, insurers, and the private industry are in the support of the scheme and are poised to play a role in operationalizing the scheme through service provision, manufacturing of inputs and consumables, and providing jobs.

Speaking about the purchase of essential medical requirements, Ssali said that because government enjoys discounted lower prices through the benefit of the bulk purchase at times directly from manufacturers, a procurement window should be established to allow private facilities to procure from the national medical stores in order to drive down the prices of medical supplies and drugs.

“Additionally, during pandemics and emergency times, the National Drug Authority could allow for special import licenses for private facilities to purchase as a bloc from international manufacturers and circumvent the high cost of agents who increase prices without warning or rationale,” Ssali said.

She further explained that it is also an opportune time to implement the various models of Public-Private Partnerships which have been used successfully in several countries across the world.

“For instance, equipment placement or strategic purchasing mechanisms where private health facilities have capacity. Strategic purchasing allows the government to set price for a service in the private sector, and pay for Ugandans to enjoy that service at the agreed price.”

These interventions combined or individually would enable the private health sector to serve Ugandans with better and more affordable health services.

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