Egypt issues law allowing private sector to manage, develop public hospitals for 3-15 years

Ahram Online , Monday 24 Jun 2024

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi ratified on Monday a law that allows the private sector to establish, manage, operate, and develop public health facilities in Egypt under certain conditions.

public hospital
File Photo: A medical worker checking on a patient in a public hospital in Cairo, Egypt. Photo courtesy of Egyptian health Ministry.

 

The government-proposed law, approved by the House of Representatives in May, allows private investors to secure concessions to manage and operate public hospitals for no less than three years and up to 15 years.

The private sector should maintain these public health facilities, medical equipment, and all necessary infrastructure and keep them in good and functional condition throughout the contract period.

According to the law, all health facilities, including medical equipment, will be transferred back to state ownership at the end of the concessions period for free and in good condition.

The private investors must not transfer the granted concession to others without the Egyptian cabinet's permission.

Moreover, the law requires private investors to maintain a minimum of 25 percent of the facility's employees, if they agree, ensuring no prejudice to their financial and employment rights.

It also mandates allocating a percentage of the total health services for beneficiaries of state-sponsored treatment services, including services provided at the expense of the state and health insurance schemes, at the same prices determined by the government.

The law limits foreign medical workers to 15 percent of the total staff in already existing healthcare facilities or those established by the state per the law, and up to 25 percnet in hospitals fully established by the private sector.

However, the law does not apply to primary healthcare centres, family health units, blood operations, and plasma collection, which are subject to the provisions of Law No. 8/2021 that regulate these operations for manufacturing and exporting derivatives.

In a written message to the parliament speaker Hanafy El-Gebaly, Doctors Syndicate Head Osama Abdel-Hay has stressed that the syndicate has no objection to local and foreign investors building new private hospitals in Egypt.

However, allowing investors to manage or operate existing public hospitals that offer services to low-income citizens would introduce a profit motive and make basic treatment unaffordable for ordinary citizens, Abdel-Hay said.

In response, Mostaqbal Watan Party Spokesperson Abdel-Hadi Al-Qasabi insisted that private sector involvement in managing and operating public hospitals will improve health service provision.

Additionally, El-Gebaly stressed that the changes do not mean privatizing public hospitals since they will return to public ownership once the concessions expire.

The law opens the door to experienced private investors to improve public hospitals' performance through modern management techniques, El-Gebaly added.

Minister of Health Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar said the law is part of the government's plans to attract the private sector into more areas of the economy. However, safeguards would be in place to ensure investors do not raise healthcare prices, he added.

According to Abdel-Ghaffar, the law will allow investors to manage and operate as many as 526 public hospitals.

In addition, the terms of the concessions allow the government to terminate agreements should hospitals begin charging excessive fees or offer low-quality services, he noted.

 

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