FORMER President Jakaya Kikwete yesterday challenged the World Bank (WB) to create specific facilities for giving loans to private hospitals, to enable them contribute more to improving services in the East African region.
The retired Fourth Phase president was addressing the sixth East Africa Healthcare Federation Conference that kicked off in Dar es Salaam yesterday, as he stressed the importance of private sector players in supporting the government’s better health service drive.
“How much money does the World Bank give to Africa for the health sector? It’s the very World Bank that tells African governments not to guarantee loans by private investors in the health sector,” he said, when contributing to the theme of the conference health sector for better services ‘Healthcare financing for sustainable quality healthcare’.
He pointed out that it was difficult for the private sector to prosper if they didn’t access loans from international financial institutions like the World Bank.
Mr Kikwete took a swipe at African scholars who usually complained about poor services and criticising those seeking medical services abroad, saying “the truth is, because we are poor, we lack enough specialist doctors for some diseases.
One of the problems we have with African scholars is the culture of complaining; even those you think they are going to come up with solutions, merely complain. You have an opportunity to tell the World Bank to extend loans to the private sector, because by doing so, people will not die from cholera,” he said.
The former president noted that in many ways, insufficient investment in healthcare leads to poor services, calling for more investment in training, to produce more healthcare professionals. He elaborated:“Many citizens have to pay for services that some may not afford.
I hope in your discussion over healthcare financing health insurance system in the region should be given serious attention. The private sector needs this as the only way that assures you of getting more patients and earn funds.
“Just to see a doctor, one pays 20,000/- up to 50,000/-, and that is only seeing you (doctor) . This is where many poor people get stuck, they can’t afford. But when they have health insurance, then will pay the costs,” He explained that the people’s state of health was an important indicator for human development in the society.
High income countries occupy a high position in the human development index while the developing countries occupy very low because of poor health services.
Mr Kikwete explained furthermore, that the discrepancy was reflected in the life expectancy, whereby the developed countries live longer than people in the developing countries; for most developed countries, the life expectancy is estimated at 80 years, while in developing countries, for instance in Tanzania the life expectancy is set at 65 years.
Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu assured delegates that the government would continue closely working with the private sector in provision of services since 27 per cent of health facilities in the country are privately owned.
On his part, the World Bank’s Head of Health in Africa Initiative, Prof Khama Rogo, hinted that the non-state actors participation was pivotal should the African countries want to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) on health.