Thursday, March 31, 2016

Experts discuss health financing

Published in The New Times -Rwanda on March 31, 2016 by HUDSON KUTEESA

Minister Binagwaho (R) explains the need to finance the health sector as Minister Gatete (C)
and Jesse Joseph of USAID look on during the meeting in Bugesera. (Doreen Umutesi)
Local and international experts on health financing are meeting in Nyamata, Bugesera District to discuss the desired health financing modifications and how they can be aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals.
The two-day conference that opened yesterday is held under the theme: “Health financing reforms in the eve of sustainable development goals.”
The conference attracted over 150 participants, including experts from Senegal, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia, deliberating on how current health financing policies can be a stepping-stone toward achieving the SDGs.
The national and international experts, especially those who have contributed in the design and implementation of health financing reforms in Rwanda are sharing current state of health financing policies and brainstorming about the future directions.
Minister Gatete explains the challenges of priotising finance in the health sector.
Dr Agnes Binagwaho, the Minister for Health in an interview with journalists said the conference would come up with ideas on how to generate finances for the health sector and look at ways of using it efficiently.
“Rwanda has achieved the SDGs, but to us, it is not enough. We want more achievements and it needs money.
So these health financing experts are gathering to come up with innovations of financing the health sector and how we can use the finances efficiently.We need innovation for example electronic medical records which use ICT linked with diagnostics. Such innovations reduce the money spent or bring efficient spending. We hope to come up with solutions for the future in the global architecture of health.”
Claver Gatete, the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning emphasised the importance of financing the health sector which he described as the foundation of all development in Rwanda.
“The health sector is an area that we can’t avoid because it will come back and haunt us. It is the foundation of all development in Rwanda.The topic of health financing is very timely. It comes at a time when we are looking at what we have achieved in vision 2020. So, it will help us to see ways of financing the health sector and how we can work with the other financing institutions to contribute to the sector,” he said.
“Investing in health sector is very important.For instance if we invest in health equipment, there will be no more going to India for surgeries and other complex medical processes.And this can save a lot of money and even bring in forex when neighbouring countries send their patients for treatment here.”
He also called for innovation that will see Rwanda be able to finance such institutions without depending on support from outside countries, citing an example from last year’s budget where 66 per cent was from domestic resources, 14 percent borrowed and 20 per cent from grants.
“We should think differently. We cannot expect that money will always be coming from outside all the time.We have to think innovatively towards health financing by working with partners, tapping into the private sector institutions and most importantly engaging the population.”
He expressed hope that by working together, the health system can change for the better and thanked the financing partners working with the ministry of health including Global Fund, the US government, Bill Gates Foundation, Rocke Fella Foundationand bilateral donors like the Belgians among others.
The Rwanda Vision 2020 considers health financial accessibility as a key priority among its strategic direction
Among the anticipated outcomes of the meeting are understanding the current status of global health financing reforms in the areas of universal health coverage and quality assurance approaches; reviewing of different approaches to ensure sustainable quality improvement and exploration of ways to link financial reforms with quality assurance and improved initiatives.
The discussions from the meeting will feed into the current government process of developing a health sustainability plan for the whole health sector.