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How to reimagine healthcare systems in Africa, by Pate

By Abigail Ikhaghu
02 May 2022   |   4:05 am
Co-chair of the Core Panel of the Initiative on the Future of Health and Economic Resiliency in Africa (FHERA) and Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, has made recommendations on how to reimagine healthcare systems in Africa.

Muhammad Ali Pate

Co-chair of the Core Panel of the Initiative on the Future of Health and Economic Resiliency in Africa (FHERA) and Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, has made recommendations on how to reimagine healthcare systems in Africa.

Pate made the recommendations during the 1st memorial lecture held in honour of Late Prof. Emmanuel Adeyemo Elebute, in Lagos, tagged “Reimagining the Future of Healthcare in Africa -A Healthcare Quality Perspective.”

Pate, a former Minister of Health and Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), said that, health services should be technically competent, include good communication, shared decision making and cultural sensitivity.

To reimagine healthcare systems in Africa, Pate recommended that national health policies must focus intentionally on both access and quality. He said deliberate strategies to measure and improve quality at scale would be required. “In 2012, we started a clinical governance initiative in the Federal Ministry of Health with a National Quality Strategy as an initial output to guide our health systems to focus on quality at scale. The relevance of such strategy remains, and it should be financed from domestic sources and implemented by Federal and State governments and private sector. As part of efforts to improve governance, transparent, efficient and effective regulatory framework should be in place for medical products, devices and services. Service delivery redesign within and between firms may be considered as part of reform efforts to improve quality in health systems,” Pate said.

The physician said quality should be embedded within all pre-service health workforces’ training and continuing professional education, with a team-based and multi-disciplinary approach. He said measurement of quality; tracking and continuous improvement must be at top of mind for health professionals and managers in our health systems. “Such training should include large doses of inter-personal elements and teamwork,” he said.

The public health expert said with increased domestic financing for health, governments should upgrade health infrastructure and equipment, ensuring adequate arrangements for maintenance. He said using digital technology could improve diagnostics, integration and continuity of care, as well as enable patients to be more active participants in the production of health. Pate said provider payment mechanisms that measure and reward quality will set the right incentives for public and private providers. “Quality is not cheap; a country must invest,” he said.

Pate stated there is need to professionalise health systems management. According to him, trained clinician with broader management and leadership skills would be equipped to harness the potential of all inputs, manage processes and inspire the right attitudes among the team of health care workers.

He said patient or health client must be repositioned to be at the centre of the health system. “We should listen to the voice of the patients and their experience in our health care facilities and respond accordingly. Instead of the Patients’ Bill of Rights just being a poster in health facilities, its implementation should be tracked, and the voices of the patients respected. Doing so will restore their trust and confidence, while giving our politicians true appreciation of the population. Imagine a state governor with 80 per cent client satisfaction, regardless of potential flaws in its measurement,” Pate said.

The public health physician said improving quality of health systems requires robust public-private sector collaborations, each bringing its complementary strengths and capabilities, with health outcomes and patient outcomes as the ‘true north’. “For the private sector, profit from health is okay, but profiteering is not okay. For the public sector, predatory regulations and corruption in partnership with private actors are not okay,” he said.

He added: “In conclusion, health care access without quality is dangerous, wasteful care. It is unlikely to lead to improvement in health outcomes. Focus on quality can be an arrowhead for transformation to realize a different future for health systems in Nigeria and Africa. There are practical recommendations for achieving high-quality systems, but they require leadership will, good governance and sincere efforts over time.”

Late Dr. Emmanuel Adeyemo Elebute was the founder of the Society for Quality in Healthcare in Nigeria (SQHN). SQHN was founded in the year 2006 as a Non-profit organisation with the mission to lead, advocate and facilitate continuous quality improvement and safety in the delivery of healthcare in Nigeria, through education, training, accreditation and collaborations.

Aside serving as the Provost of The College of Medicine, Lagos University Teaching Hospital from 1977-1980, late Prof. Elebute also co-founded Hygeia Nigeria Limited with his wife Prof. O. Elebute.

Hygeia Nigeria Limited promotes Lagoon Hospitals, Hygeia Health Maintenance Organisation (HMO) and Hygeia community Health plan and Hygeia Foundation.