The first Western Cape Department of Health (WC DoH) Public Private Forum of the year took place on 17th February to highlight the latest public private partnership (PPP) healthcare innovations both underway and on the horizon.

The Forum was led by the new WC DoH Head, Dr Beth Engelbrecht, who re-emphasised the importance of promoting the healthcare objectives outlined in the Healthcare 2030 strategy, primarily person-centred care and ensuring a well society.

The first speaker was Programme Manager from the Greater Tygerberg Partnership, Kirsten Sloth-Nielsen, who spoke about how her organisation is working towards the revitalisation of the Voortrekker Road Corridor and the Bellville CBD to ensure the social and economic well-being of Cape Town’s second metropolitan node. Sloth-Nielsen explained that health is one of the key drivers in the initiative because of the importance of ensuring healthcare accessibility for the area’s population.

According to Sloth-Nielsen, the Partnership has identified three options to drive the health initiative in the area: create a healthcare centre of excellence that would include a medical, educational and training facility with public computer labs and an organ donor unit; a physical portal to train healthcare givers; and thirdly a virtual, or eHealth, portal.

Sloth-Nielsen said that the third option, the virtual portal, has received the most positive feedback because it would allow patients to search for the closest healthcare facilities in their area, give them access to information about illnesses and protocols, and even act as an online booking system. There would also be a separate portal, or health platform, for practitioners, researchers and students that would aid in the sharing of knowledge and improving the quality of care.

Sloth-Nielsen concluded by saying such a plan would realistically take 10 to 15 years to roll out, however it would be done though a phased approach that they would like to start as soon as possible with support from the private sector. They will be holding an open workshop on 26th March to explore the initiative further in terms of partnerships and business models.

The next key speaker was Public Health Registrar: Health Impact Assessment of the WC DoH, Dr Kate Rees, who discussed the results of the public private collaboration in Wellness Centres that were piloted in the Winelands region between April 2014 and March 2015. She explained that the initiative was largely successful; however more is needed to ensure further success, such as to ensure the same reporting systems are used across facilities.

The newly elected WC Minister of Health, Nomafrench Mbombo, closed the forum by emphasising the importance of working with other governmental departments to “promote social wellness and build healthy communities and families.” Minister Mbombo echoed Dr Engelbrecht in highlighting the messages outlined in Healthcare 2030, which is a “well researched and in-house developed document that focuses on the current situation in the province,” which also provides guidelines on what areas need to be prioritised.

Minister Mbombo concluded by saying how she wants to go “back to basics to ensure patients go for health check-ups in wellness centres to help with early detection of diseases and to prevent overcrowding of hospitals.” She believes for this to become a reality it’s essential for PPP to ensure secure and reliable financing, leadership, governance and human resources.

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