Private hospitals open to partnerships

Neesa Moodley
According to Bhoola, 70 percent of specialists practise in the private sector, while just 30 percent service the public sector. That means 85 percent of the population is being treated by only 30 percent of the country's specialists, which translates into a huge imbalance, he said.

Bhoola said in Durban alone, the private health sector had more than 50 radiologists, while the government faced a shortage of radiologists and had less than 200 nationally. Hasa has long been of the view that public private-partnerships are the future in this country, but government has been very slow in embracing this idea. Some provinces have gone a long way towards progress, but there is a great deal of red tape, which hinders implementation.

On the expense of private healthcare, Bhoola said all countries had a private health sector.
In the UK, for example, 90 percent of the population is on the National Health System and 10 percent is on private care, although the percentage on private care is increasing ''Life is about choices. Just like cars, where Toyota is for the mass market and some people prefer to drive BMWs, people should have a choice in their medical care too'', he said. There are 167 private hospitals in the country, of which 75 percent to 80 percent are owned by Netcare, Medi-Clinic and Afrox.

The annual reinvestment in the private healthcare sector's technology is estimated to be R1 billion, and the total annual salary bill for private hospitals is R5.5 billion or 31.5 percent of turnover. Anban Pillay, the health department's director of pharmaceutical pricing, said the idea of private-public partnerships was encapsulated in the National Health Act.

Partnerships are already written into law and the government will definitely be pursuing and entering into such agreements. Our only concern is to ensure we don't rush into situations where we end up paying for expensive resources, Pillay said.

(Soure: Business report, February 11, 2005)