Grace Kiwanuka Ssali, the Executive Director of Uganda Healthcare Federation (UHF) an umbrella body for private health providers wants Uganda private healthcare providers to be treated as a partners and not profit centres.
But this will require a mindset shift perception by the public, development partners and the government.
Speaking to Health Journalists Network members during a boot camp held in Kampala, Kiwanuka Ssali, said the private health sector providers need more support from development partners and the government.
"I know that development partners say we are putting money into government and supporting Private-not-for-profits (PNFPS) but it is not as easy as saying ... I am going to support these three people the rest of you will figure it out," Kiwanuka told HEJNU journalists.
"We need to shift the perception about the private sector health providers to be partners and not profit centres."
Kiwanuka said the private sector health providers are waiting for the government to allow them to officially offer COVID-19 vaccination services.
Right now the a pilot project to do this was started in Kampala, because it a unique district in terms of healthcare - 98 percent of the healthcare facilities are privately owned.
The Uganda private health providers resolved to dialogue with the government and have the Ministry of Health (MOH) draft a policy that’s now in very early stages to allow private health providers officially offer COVID-19 vaccination when it became practically impossible to do it on their own.
At the height of the pandemic, Kiwanuka says members of the Federation went directly to COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers with proposals but they needed up to US$500,000 to make the smallest acceptable import order because companies were prioritizing the COVAX facility. The providers couldn’t afford this.
While a number of private facilities are now offering vaccine services, according to the federation, these are being offered in a pilot mode. The accredited facilities went through a tight verification process where they gave priority to those that had been engaging in routine immunization prior to the pandemic and those that had the equipment and expressed capacity to arrest the adverse reactions from the vaccine in a timely manner case they happen.
Noteworthy, MOH had early last year drafted guidelines for private pharmacies and importers of pharmaceutical products to start dealing in vaccines, a move that was immediately shot down by critics including public health experts who expressed worries about fakes infiltrating the market.
Now, Kiwanuka says over the last two years, they have been in back and forth meetings with the policymakers to ensure that they are engaged early to participate in health emergencies.
For her, it’s now clear that government cannot handle it on its own with lessons taken from COVID-19 interventions where they were overwhelmed when private hospitals started filling with critical COVID-19 patients and yet they were not involved in the preparations.
Because of this, she says all the solutions so far reached with the government on vaccine provision so far are not feasible for private providers. For instance, MOH had allowed them to use the National Medical Stores (NMS) to manage the vaccines logistics for them.