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Building the Future Health System Piece by Piece The Right Solutions, The Right Investments

Speakers:

  • Alberto De Rosa Torner, CEO, Ribera Salud Group
  • David Gacheru, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Kenya to the United States
  • Khama Rogo, Lead Health Sector Specialist, The World Bank
  • Mehul Mehta, Vice President, Strategy and Global Programs, Partners HealthCare International

Moderator:

  • Roberta Lipson, Founder and CEO, United Family Healthcare

The final panel sought to pinpoint some core elements needed to build financially sustainable, affordable, high quality healthcare systems tailored for emerging markets.

Mehul Mehta, Vice President for Strategy and Global Programs at Partners HealthCare International, a Harvard-based academic center, said that when his organization first went to India and China in the early 2000s, “It was hard to find projects that were interested in change: the public sector delivered healthcare for the poor—there were a few private hospitals.” Drawing from their experiences, they developed the following vision: build a system around quality that is affordable, is not focused on main cities, addresses patient needs—meaning a disease-based, not department-based system—and empowers nurses. “If you don’t get the basics of healthcare correct I don’t care what technology you have, it’s going to fail,” he said. Emerging markets can show a path forward for the rest of the world, he argued: “I’ve always believed that we in emerging markets should not follow the West. We have so much in the way we do things that we can teach the West.”

“If you don’t get the basics of healthcare correct I don’t care what technology you have, it’s going to fail.”—Mehul Mehta

Twenty years ago, Alberto De Rosa Torner, CEO of Ribera Salud Group, founded the first public hospital in Spain managed by the private sector, based on a public-private-partnership model. His company has since expanded to facilities in Spain as well as Chile, Peru, and Slovakia. A recent audit showed that they are making a saving of 30 percent in costs compared with government-managed hospitals, with wait times between diagnosis and operation averaging 38 days compared with more than 120 days in public hospitals. He noted that while the government placed caps on their profitability margins, in return for this limitation, they have been granted very long-term contracts which keeps them on a sustainable footing.

David Gacheru, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Kenya to the United States, who worked as an obstetrician for 28 years before he joined the Kenyan government two years ago, underscored the long-term benefits of prioritizing primary care—and rolling it out extensively into rural areas. He also stressed, on the investment side, the importance of “building bankable projects” in the post-feasibility study phase.

Khama Rogo, Lead Health Sector Specialist at The World Bank, noted that private healthcare providers in Africa historically have had problems accessing finance as very few financial instruments were designed for the small and medium-sized businesses that dominated the African market. “Even IFC was not present in Africa in health. Now it is big in Africa,” having developed in tandem with the World Bank tailored financial products that help healthcare business to grow. Pro-business changes in legislation across Africa and the emergence of national health insurance schemes are helping too, he said.

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