CAIRO: Egypt needs between LE 7 billion and LE 17 billion annually to deliver the kind of healthcare citizens are looking for, the health minister said Monday.
Egypt’s International Economic Forum hosted Monday a seminar featuring Health Minister Hatem El-Gabaly.
El-Gabaly gave an address entitled “Universal Healthcare & Reform of the Health Sector: The Time is Now, which focused primarily on implementing changes to Egypt’s current healthcare system so as to broaden access and quality of care.
Broadly speaking, the minister said that it would take between LE 7 and LE 17 billion per year “to give you the kind of medical care you look forward to.
The minister began his speech with a scathing assessment of the media, detailing positive statistics in the health sector and complaining that the media only ever choose to focus on the negative side of healthcare in Egypt.
He boasted, for example, that Egypt is the best country in the world in terms of bringing down its child mortality rate.
But the purpose of El-Gabaly’s speech was more or less a repeat effort for him to sell his reform plans to the business and healthcare communities in Egypt.
The plan, according to El-Gabaly, is to roll out a system in each of the country’s governorates under which the government guarantees the most basic health services by setting a baseline of care to which all Egyptians are entitled.
El-Gabaly said the plan is already in the midst of implementation in Suez, and the ministry will bring Sohag onboard in 2010 and Alexandria in 2011.
Around 12,000 people, he said, have already enrolled for experimental coverage in Suez.
By choosing these three governorates, El-Gabaly said, the government will be able to see the success of the new health system in rural and urban areas, rich and poor neighborhoods, and agricultural and industrial zones.
“City dwellers are luckier than people in rural areas, El-Gabaly said, referring to the current inequity in healthcare.
Nearly 70 percent of all spending on healthcare in Egypt is done by individuals. El-Gabaly said his vision is to reduce that number to 40 percent, leaving the government to pick up the rest of the tab.
“Expenses should be affordable to the vast majority of our citizens, he said.
The minister also argued that the country’s age demographics have opened a window in which to implement the reforms. Sixty percent of Egyptians, according to El-Gabaly, are under age 30.
That means that health needs of the country are low compared to what they will be decades down the road as this population bubble ages and requires more care.
While contagious diseases remain important to the ministry, El-Gabaly said, the government is turning its attention to non-contagious diseases like cancer, respiratory illnesses, cardiology issues and diabetes.
One step in order to tackle non-contagious diseases is to try to put all hospitals on an even footing.
“The opinion that private hospitals are better than public hospital is prevalent, said the minister.
Egypt, he said, is also facing a nursing shortage.
The real test for El-Gabaly may be in winning the battle for public opinion. Because his reform plan will be slow to be implemented, a public cynicism is sure to develop. The best way to fight public skepticism, though, may just be to deliver quality care.ity care.