Healthcare like any other business requires adequate investment to give the service provision every chance to improve and be sustainable.
The healthcare sector in Uganda has seen tremendous improvement over the last two decades with an influx of private investment leading to privately owned facilities taking a significant share of the healthcare provision market. Investment in healthcare is generally an expensive venture and yet takes a number of years to realize the return on investment.
Using Nakasero Hospital as a case study for this article, the major aim for its establishment was to provide quality care but also the kind that Ugandans were travelling abroad to receive., This would mean that the dollars that were spent out the country could now be spent within and hence bringing the cost of care down for the patient given there are a number of overhead costs that would be eliminated.
The hospital has since then plugged this gap by investing in the following key areas that have seen it soar in its expertise to handle a number of wide ranging health complications. These to a greater extent mirror the national Health Sector Strategic and Investment Plan (2010-2015);
- Human Resources
- Health Management Information System
This is a key aspect of health care provision and usually the first inline when considering setting up a medical facility. The country possessed a huge number of highly trained and experienced specialists in various areas but was largely handicapped when it came to modern diagnostic tools meaning they relied on their experience for most of the time. This led a number of these specialists to leave the country for areas where they could use these tools hence seriously draining the country of most of these brainy specialists. Nakasero Hospital, armed with modern diagnostic tools, employed a consultant plaza approach that enabled a number of these highly trained and experienced consultants run clinics at the facility at different times of the day and week and thus having a one stop center approach for health care consulting. This enabled the public get a bit of direction on where to go for assistance of a medical nature. This model is still employed to date and has continued to become popular and effective with the public.
The presence of such expertise enables the other medical staff continue to learn and benefit from trainings that are usually conducted by these highly experienced medical consultants.
This is one of the most expensive areas for any private player to fully equip and ensure that it is functioning efficiently and manned by adequately trained staff. The variety of cases diagnosed every day requires that the diagnostic capacity in any fully functional facility is adequate and that means state of the art equipment and equally trained personnel to man this equipment. The hospital has invested in most of the key areas ranging from laboratory, radiology, endoscopy, cardiac and critical care. These enable the consultants treat the actual issues all the time.
This also goes into surgical capability and ensures that all the emergencies and elective cases are handled effectively.
Health Management Information Systems
Improved healthcare also centers on information management which usually manifests in two forms which include confidentiality of patient information and use of patient information for continuation of care. The investment in this area should always be able to provide this benefit to both the facility and the patient. Currently, the system in use at Nakasero Hospital enables the organisation cut down on paper usage but also provide safe custody for patient information. It has also made it easier to access information as and when it is needed thereby ensuring that care for the patient is quicker, more accurate and better.
Nakasero Hospital currently has capability to diagnose any health condition and continues to invest in strengthening this aspect of healthcare. We currently cater to the region including but not limited to South Sudan, DRC, Rwanda, Burundi and Somalia. These areas have made us their key referral facility for their citizens because of the level of trust that have entrusted in us following visits to the facility to gauge capability.
It is important for the private sector to fund a sustainable model for continuous investment in healthcare provision to supplement what the government is able to provide. We strongly believe that the private sector will continue to grow and eventually ensure that over 90% of all health complications are handled in country in another few years. The support needs to come in form of affordable financing models for healthcare investment through reducing the rate at which healthcare practitioners can borrow to invest in healthcare.
The government can also encourage investment in this area through reducing taxation on certain equipment or materials required for healthcare project implementation and improvement.
The national insurable scheme is a great source of finance ensuring that health facilities are able to see many more patients hence the revenues collected can be reinvested to ensure services are much improved.
The Nakasero Hospital story is not very unique but takes a lot of commitment and resources-both financial and human resources to turn it into a success story.