Africabio Enterprises Inc. (Part 2): Benefits of a Public-Private Partnership in the Liberian Healthcare Sector

Gaeduo K. Stewart, Project Manager, Africabio Enterprises, Inc. and Donna L. Johnson

In the spring of 2015, with the Ebola outbreak on the
decline and Medical Laboratory Professional Week fast approaching, Africabio
Enterprises, Inc. (Africabio) hosted its 1st Annual Celebration of Medical
Laboratory Professionals Week in Liberia. The one-day event honored laboratory
professionals, who had been at the forefront of Liberia's battle against the
recent Ebola outbreak and had lost colleagues to the outbreak. Africabio also
celebrated the collaboration among the country's diagnostic labs and private
entities to bolster the labs' technical, personnel and infrastructure resources
to fight the outbreak. As described below, Liberia recognizes the importance of
public-private partnerships in the healthcare sector to sustain the delivery of
high-quality services to all Liberians.    

 The services of the healthcare sector are majority provided by government-managed facilities and a few NGO/charity-managed facilities operating on a not-for-profit basis. An extremely small portion of the sector services are operated by privately-owned, for-profit entities. While public agencies provide services at little or no cost, they tend to be operated on  very limited budgets and with  higher levels of bureaucracy that do not allow for competitive compensation of staff, resulting in very low staff morale and enthusiasm. Also due to limited budgets, these facilities encounter many problems with inadequate supplies needed to offer the basic minimum care. On the other hand, while the privately funded facilities may have access to better staff with better compensation and less bureaucracy, and offer better services, this will usually come at a cost that most of the public cannot afford. Accordingly, this has led to the creation of many public-private partnerships in Liberia's healthcare sector.

Public-private partnerships only work if they are beneficial to both parties involved. The first benefit is financial, in that a private agency or for-profit company is able to provide more funding whether it be for payroll, supplies or other administrative costs than the public sector, and the government in turn provides subsidies and other cost-saving measures such as tax breaks.  In addition, these partnerships are great for capacity building and knowledge sharing and transfer.  They are a great source for the exchange of information and processes between all parties involved, and the combination of said processes and techniques can at times create more efficient practices for each party moving forward.  Private companies tend to have the resources to devote to brand building, whereas public agencies might already be better connected with the market share that private companies will need to attract.

In the Liberian healthcare sector, these partnerships involve, but are not limited to, payroll incentives, staff training and continued education, supplies distribution and/or other administrative matters. The recent Ebola outbreak and the subsequent control were only achieved through a collaborative effort between many government agencies, international and national non-governmental agencies, civil service groups, private pharmaceutical companies and research groups. Because of these collaborations, innovative techniques were created and shared in the areas of preventative measures, social awareness and treatment and management of the disease. This exchange of knowledge and ideas is far-reaching beyond the scope of Ebola, and carries through to almost every aspect of healthcare management.

Public-private partnerships have been proven a necessity in Liberia and the world at large. They are a good source of shared resources, which tends to lead to innovation and learning opportunities. However, because public health is a basic human right, these partnerships have to be accountable to all parties involved as well as the public served. In addition the quality of the products and services has to be ensured, and the costs and access have to be managed. This means more regulations on the part of government to ensure the benefits of these partnerships are also reaching the public.

On April 27-28, 2016, Africabio will host its 2nd annual Celebrate Lab Week 2016 Conference: Highlighting Diagnostics in Liberia in Monrovia. The event will bring together representatives from public and private entities in the global healthcare sector, improving the collaborative environment among these entities in Liberia. 

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