How African private healthcare federations are working together with the public sector in the fight against COVID-19: Examples from the continent

Today, the world is going through a historic challenge due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The future is uncertain and right now Covid-19 cannot be won by a single player only. Succeeding will require a joint effort with different players and cross-sector collaboration is focused to flatten the Covid-19 curve and prevent new infections.

The Africa Healthcare Federation (AHF) is an independent entity which serves to unify five regional private health federations. AHF advocates, mentors, collaborates and unifies the private health sector in the various African regions to ensure the scaling up and strengthening of health systems. This is done by promoting greater investments in health as well as the development of affordable, accessible and quality healthcare delivery across the continent. AHF serves as the Pan African umbrella body under which the regional federations fall which, in turn, have nationalprivate healthcare federations under their wing.

The AHF is at the forefront to foster public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the continent and the current Covid-19 situation has proven to be a great case to further spur and develop PPPs in health on the continent. The federation is regularly engaging with the African Union (AU), the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and national governments across the continent to foster collaboration and progress in the African health sector.

An example of a strong national private healthcare federation is the Kenya Healthcare Federation (KHF). KHF serves as the health sector board of the wider private sector group the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA). KHF works closely
with the Kenyan Ministry of Health and are currently involved as part of the national task force responding to Covid-19. Through this engagement the federation provides private sector support to supplement the efforts of the government to tackle Covid-19.

KHFs engagement in relation to Covid-19 can be broken into the below support areas:

1. Support of health worker training:

This means that health workers are getting more empowered when it comes to keeping safe, and learn how to deal with both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients.

2. Supply chain:

Many of KHF’s members have brought PPEs and test kits that are being used by the government through their distribution channels.

3. The technology sector and mobile health:

Several applications are being built, but more importantly, telemedicine has become an offering by many private sector facilities, including hospitals and clinics.

4. Resource mobilization:

Private sector companies are donating items such as mattresses, sanitizers, and masks to both public and private sector facilities. They are also helping the small and medium-sized private hospitals to make sure that their health workers remain safe.

5. Manufacturing:

Factories are being repurposed to start producing Covide-19 related items such as gowns, boot covers, head covers, and many other items locally.

6. Innovations in critical care:

Several engineering firms in innovation have come up with 3D printing prototypes for ventilators. Kenyatta University, Toyota Kenya, and several others are using local resources to adapt and make equipment that could be used to deliver oxygen.

7. Infrastructure:

The federation has teamed up with the Architectural Association of Kenya to design hospital zones, such as field hospitals and containerized facilities to ensure that Covid-19 positive patients are safely catered for while reducing the risk of transmission to other non-Covid-19 patients in the hospital.

Another national private healthcare federation in Africa; The Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (HFN) is working with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and federal government on multiple response fronts. Their main goal is to strengthen public sector laboratories through training, recruitment, equipment, and logistics support and providing additional testing through a network of private laboratories.

The importance of PPPs Covid-19 has emphasized the many health gaps in African that existed before the pandemic, from shortages in human resources, adequate training, healthcare financing, and effective supply chains.
Stakeholders in health need to think of how to prepare for future outbreaks. In order to effectively tackle future epidemics and pandemics, both public and private sector need to strengthen their capabilities and collaboration. There is a need for a crisis management plan that includes both sectors, ensuring all stakeholders are prepared to rise to public health challenges together.

PPPs present an opportunity to leverage private investment for the benefit of public health and can bring various ways to improve the operations of public health services and to expand access to quality healthcare services for all Africans.
AHF is engaging regularly with the Africa CDC, the AU, and the World Health Organization (WHO) by sharing private health sector strengths and capabilities. The AHF, and its regional and national members across the continent are building and strengthening trust models and working relationships with the Ministries of Health, regional and continental public health bodies.

“It’s only through PPPs we will be able to fight Covid-19 in Africa” Dr. Amit N. Thakker – President AHF and Chairman KHF.

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