With national health systems at or beyond breaking point dealing with a global pandemic, how is it that, in some countries at least, for-profit facilities remain resolutely un-drafted into the fight? Surely, as COVID-19 blazes its way across Europe, it should be all hands to the pump?
A wholesale requisitioning of private capacity would be one option, of course, but even in the most under-resourced systems like India this hasn’t yet happened. Rumours of this happening in Poland have been recently quashed as HBI reported here.
Showing how it should be done, Germany appears to have a model worth following – though its position is helped by its extensive capacity and the fact that German for-profit hospitals are already baked into the system. In Italy too, the likes of San Donato are at the forefront of a fight as intense as anywhere in Europe, while Spanish for-profits have seen their NHS block buying capacity.
But at the other end of the scale you have the likes of Poland. With a government seemingly set against for-profit involvement in healthcare before the crisis, it has doubled down on its position with no private hospitals (NFZ listed or otherwise) involved in coronavirus treatment. Similarly, only one for-profit hospital in Romania is formally part of the fight. Saudi Arabia started from a similar position, but an abrupt volte-face changed that last week.
In between the two extremes, there are some messy shades of grey, and nowhere messier than France where each side (public and private) blaming the other for under-utilisation. In the UK, a lot has been done to support the NHS by taking up other work left undone as public facilities defer routine work.
This is, surely, a time where political differences should be set aside for the greater good. Would that it were that simple. Political differences aside, the issue of payment for treatment – at rates sufficient for hospitals to not leech money – must at least be settled and understood. It shouldn’t take long. Because while healthcare giants may safely weather this storm, smaller indebted healthcare operators could go to the wall leaving less capacity for everyone.
It will be interesting to see when the dust settles whether any of this could trigger a wave of even greater appreciation of NHS systems (and thereby funding) or whether the work done by the likes of San Donato in the front line of this fight wins over the more sceptical in the longer term.
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