The private healthcare industry has the expertise and capacity to help the government improve public health under National Health Insurance (NHI), Afrocentric CEO Antoine van Buuren says, citing his company’s recent experience delivering medicines to state patients as a case in point.
The Department of Health has recently softened its approach on the role of the private sector in implementing NHI, opening the way for industry to play a greater role.
Afrocentric’s courier pharmacy business, Pharmacy Direct, began providing chronic medicines to stable state patients in 2013, as part of the department’s central chronic medicines and dispensing and distribution programme, which aims to relieve congestion at hospitals and clinics.
Pharmacy Direct won tenders in all but two provinces — KwaZulu-Natal went to Medipost, and the Western Cape runs its own system — and now reaches about 430,000 patients a month, Van Buuren says. Patients collect their prescriptions at designated points, such as community centres or retail pharmacies.
Van Buuren sees many opportunities for the state to draw on the private healthcare sector: "Why not use private hospitals’ spare capacity, and use their empty wards on weekends [for operations]."