Rwanda looking for King Faisal Hospital partner

Friday May 17 2013

By EMMANUEL RUTAYISIRE Special Correspondent

The government is seeking a co-investor in King Faisal Hospital.

Officials say that will bring good management practices to the health facility, which has hitherto been characterised by debt and high employee turnover.

State Minister for Public Health and Primary Health Care Dr Anita Asiimwe revealed during an interview with Rwanda Today that the government has registered a company with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) through which the state owns the hospital.

Dr Asiimwe added: “The government owns 100 per cent shares at the moment but we are interesting other persons and businesses to buy shares.

“If people want to buy shares, we will be happy.”

A senior commercial lawyer however told Rwanda Today that the state cannot form a limited company in which it is the sole shareholder.

The minister, who could not reveal the net worth of the company, had emphasised that the government wants to make the facility more efficient in order to enable it to earn more money and be “able to stand on its own.”

Although officials cannot reveal how much the government has been pumping into King Faisal, the Auditor-General revealed in the recent annual report that the hospital was indebted to the tune of Rwf7 billion.

The debt, according to the report, arose from tax arrears owed to Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA), as well as debts to suppliers and unremitted staff contributions to the pension fund.

Highly specialised services

Officials say if the hospital to functions outside the government bureaucracy it will be able to attract the best doctors and acquire high quality equipment easily, which will enable it to offer highly specialised health services across the region.

Even then, health officials privately contend that this will take some time as the majority of the well-to-do Rwandans are also sceptical of the country’s healthcare system and prefer to seek treatment from India and South Africa while those sponsored by the state go to Europe.

The country faces a severe shortage of highly specialised doctors and industry experts say even when the hospital is privatised the cost of expatriate staff will heavily eat into its margins.

However, the newly appointed hospital head, Dr Emile Rwamasirabo, has moved to assure Rwandans that charges will not be increased because the government, as the sole shareholder, is still providing the health facility with capital investment.

“There will be no impact on cost of service,” Dr Rwamasirabo said. “We are aiming at quicker and easier decision-making, particularly in the area of supply chain processes for consumables and medicines.

“This is a boost to the hospital because it will improve the quality of service.”

Fearful of competition, the hospital recently barred its doctors from doing private practice after working hours. Some of the affected physicians had pooled Rwf400 million in savings and bank loans to establish a state-of-the-art clinic in the Kigali suburb of Remera.

Sources told Rwanda Today that the government wants the affected doctors to allocate more time to King Faisal but the practitioners have maintained that they only work at the clinic after working hours and therefore do not see how that interferes with their job at King Faisal.

A consultant doctor earns about Rwf1.1 million per month, an amount many people have argued is far too little for the work they do.

Officials at King Faisal could not reveal if the remuneration of doctors will be increased under the new arrangement.