As South Africa’s plans to implement National Health Insurance (NHI) gathers momentum, Private Public Partnerships (PPPs) are likely to become a key feature of any successful implementation of NHI. CEO of the AfroCentric Group, Antoine Van Buuren, explains why PPPs are necessary to accelerate the rollout of NHI. The group owns Medscheme and other healthcare providers.

Through PPPs, South Africa has the potential to increase access to critically needed services and goods that otherwise would not be available. The private sector, through either its manufacturing or delivery capability, is better positioned to deliver than the public sector, so it’s not at the expense of anyone and it’s a win-win situation.

The AfroCentric Group understands that healthcare reform in our country is not going to be a smooth ride. But it is exactly what the country needs to achieve universal healthcare coverage. The truth is, while the health sector is growing, the majority of South Africans still rely on the chronically under-funded public healthcare system as their sole source of medical care. So we should not be surprised that the government is pushing on with NHI.

To build healthy communities and nation, we need PPPs and collaboration with the government to find solutions to social challenges. PPPs are a huge tool to be added to the toolbox to maintain and fund our health sector and health infrastructural initiatives.

To live to our belief in PPPs, our retail arm, Pharmacy Direct, our medicines wholesaler, Curasana,  and our drug importer, Activo Health,  have partnered with the government in seven of the nine provinces to, among other things, assist hospitals to anticipate the demand quantities before the patients get to the clinic; reduce the queues at the clinics and hospital by using data and employing individuals to speedily dispense medicines at the centres and  distributing; and deliver medication to both urban and rural areas to reduce the number of visits by patients to the healthcare facility through door to door delivery or delivery at a local post office or community centre.

These partnerships deliver enhanced services with greater efficiency and effectiveness, as well as preserving best practices. In addition, by incorporating many of the positive principles of managed care on a local basis, the partnerships have the opportunity to provide improved services and thus develop strategic advantages in the market place.

PPPs are not meant to be a substitution for lesser provisioning of government resources, nor an abdication of government responsibility, but as a tool for augmenting the public health system. We need to look at PPPs as a synergetic arrangement, which ensures that the huge private sector also contributes to public health goals.

There is no single solution to the problems of our health service. One size no longer fits all, if indeed it ever did. The complexity of modern society demands a pluralistic approach which is flexible enough to change as circumstances alter. We believe that PPPs will show the world that the idea of partnership, working together, is alive in this country, that PPPs transcend the typical economic relationship and develops bonds that are both successful and trusting.

Without a shadow of doubt, this is a tall order and one that our society demands we get right. As the private sector, we have a duty to the millions of fellow South Africans to use healthy partnerships whilst ensuring accountability to the present and future generations.

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