The second Western Cape (WC) Public Private Health Forum of the year brought together a record number of attendees from the public and private sectors to discuss health innovation.

According to the Head of the WC Department of Health (DoH), Dr Beth Engelbrecht, the WC has a reputation for being the source of healthcare innovation, form the first heart transplant to the first penile transplant. However, there are still too many barriers that is preventing healthcare innovation from thriving.

WC Minister of Economic Opportunities, Alan Winde, was a key speaker on the matter, and he began by asking: “Are we open to innovation in the health space?” He backed up his question by explaining that while money is being spent on seeding innovation, such as with the four healthcare projects at the University of Cape Town (UCT) that have been granted R1.8 million, it’s not enough to compete with the “big guys such as Philips”.

Minister Winde discussed the importance of establishing a Health Technology Park to further drive local health innovation and to counteract the reality of foreign, often cheaper, products being chosen over local ones. “To support local businesses, procurement systems need to give the advantage to local companies by cutting the red tape,” said Minister Winde.

TOMPSA’s triage app was used as an example of how a local eHealth organisation was able to achieve great success with the backing of the provincial government; from being piloted at Khayelitsha Hospital to having over 30,000 users globally.

However, the reality is that most local innovators develop products that are sold internationally because the “local environment isn’t right. Often great local products are shipped and repackaged overseas before being sent back and purchased in SA,” said Minister Winde.

Dr Lindi Van Niekerk from the Inclusive Healthcare Innovation Initiative presented their programme being run at Groote Schuur Hospital as an example of how health innovation can be encouraged. Van Niekerk explained that the key to the programmes’ success is how everyone at the hospital, from janitor to pharmacist, was given the opportunity and incentivised to voice and develop their innovative ideas on how to improve healthcare service delivery.

The WC Minister of Health, Nomofrench Mbombo, closed the forum by answering Minister Winde’s question of whether they were open to health innovation: “This year innovation has been added to the WC government’s top values, along with caring, competence, respect and integrity. So theoretically, the answer is yes, we are very serious about innovation,” said Minister Mbombo.

Minister Mbombo reiterated the importance of private public partnerships in ensuring effective service delivery, and how it’s important to overcome the red tape that so often holds up the procurement process.

Adding on to Minister Mbombo’s points, Dr Engelbrecht noted that due to the necessity of re-evaluating the procurement process, the next Public Private Health Forum will focus on just that; explaining how the procurement process works and to determine how to improve it.

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