A brainstorming forum to foster effective communication between the private and public sectors to improve investment in the health sector within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region has opened in Accra.
The five-day event at which participants will share experiences of their countries in partnership with the private sector as well as expectations, will also identify areas of collaboration that can complement the provision of public health care through the construction of well-equipped health facilities.
It has brought together stakeholders from the private sector, technical and financial partners, ECOWAS member states represented by chief directors of health and finance ministries and other officials.
It is organised by the West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO), in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Opening the forum yesterday, a Deputy Minister of Health, Ms Tina Mensah, said the need for the development of a strategic framework for public-private partnership (PPP) in health within the ECOWAS region was as a result of the strong linkage between health, productivity and national development.
She said to achieve the desired health outcomes there was the need for a substantial investment in the health sector, to ensure infrastructural development, provision of equipment, human resource among other development initiatives.
Ms Mensah, however stated that: “It has become clear that with the current trends in global economic difficulties, inflows from development partners continue to dwindle and judging by the trends, these inflows will soon cease.”
She said the challenge saw successive governments in Ghana resort to PPP arrangements in health provision and noted that there had been significant milestones with respect to the PPP arrangement, including the construction of health facilities.
She listed some of the incentives the private sector enjoyed as a result of that arrangement as tax exemption on drugs importation and the provision of capital equipment to some private facilities.
The deputy minister urged non-health private institutions such as the financial institutions, insurance companies and other corporate bodies to get involved in the health sector PPP initiative.
The Director General of WAHO, Mr Xavier Crespin, said a PPP initiative in the health sector in the region would make a difference in health financing.
Article III of the Abuja Protocol stipulates the goal of the WAHO to offer the highest level of health care and protection to communities in the sub-region based on harmonised policies of member states and third countries, to collectively and strategically find solutions to health problems in the region.
Mr Crespin stated that although the sub-region had made some good strides in the health sector, more needed to be done with the involvement of the private sector to achieve the best results for the people.
The Director at the Regional Health Office of the USAID, Madam Rachel Cintron, commended WAHO for establishing the regional PPP forum to encourage more investment in the regional health sector, given the experiences during the recent Ebola outbreak that placed the spotlight on the state of the health systems in the region.
She said greater investment was needed to strengthen systems to ensure the sustainability of the health gains made in the ECOWAS region.
The USAID has supported WAHO for many years to strengthen its institutional and leadership capacities to enable the organisation to partner and assist ECOWAS member states to work with the private sector.