Friday, March 6, 2015

Interview with European Times

I had the opportunity to meet with a team from the European Times and share reflections on the progress we have made in the health sector and a number of our goals to further this progress.  

Minister of Health Highlights Impressive Progress and Future Goals

Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, a paediatrician, has been Rwanda’s Minister of Health for the past four years. She discusses the efforts Rwanda is making to bring high-quality, affordable healthcare to its people and outlines current and future projects.
 European Times: How has the Rwandan healthcare sector evolved over the past decade?
 Dr. Agnes Binagwaho: Rwanda has achieved more progress in its healthcare sector than expected, in spite of limited funding. Great improvements have been made in access to services, financing, equipment and human resources. The Ministry of Health is working with high synergy across sectors to use funding as efficiently as possible. Rwanda has reduced death rates from AIDs, malaria and TB, and now offers universal access to HIV treatment. Around 90% of Rwandan children have been vaccinated with ten different vaccines. We are steadily increasing the number and quality of our healthcare professionals and we have implemented an advanced electronic information system for the healthcare network.
 European Times: What are your current goals for the healthcare sector?
 Dr. Agnes Binagwaho: The ministry’s mission is to bring good health to all Rwandans. Having made great progress in combating communicable diseases, Rwanda now needs to tackle non-communicable diseases. The ministry has launched preventive campaigns concerning protection from HIV infection, the need to wear seatbelts and helmets, and the risks of smoking. We will continue to expand the healthcare network and will upgrade existing hospitals to three more referral and four provincial hospitals. The ministry is promoting private-sector participation, public-private partnerships, education and investment in healthcare infrastructure. Public-private partnerships are already very important in the healthcare sector, since around 40% of the country’s hospitals are privately owned but benefit from government support.
European Times: What are the main challenges the healthcare sector faces?
 Dr. Agnes Binagwaho: We need more healthcare professionals and more specialists in different medical fields, including oncology. Rwanda now has nine nursing schools which will graduate a total of around 900 nurses per year. We need to quadruple the number of Rwanda’s healthcare professionals so Rwanda welcomes private universities offering healthcare training. Expanding the healthcare infrastructure is one of the Ministry’s goals.
European Times: What are the opportunities for foreign investors?
Dr. Agnes Binagwaho: In addition to investment in healthcare training, the Ministry of Health wants to attract investment in private healthcare facilities and high-quality pharmaceuticals, and may outsource the management of public hospitals. Investors should keep in mind that Rwanda is well placed to become a regional healthcare hub.