The pandemic-inflicted pressures on the infrastructure and the turnaround thereafter make a compelling case for formalising private-public partnerships (PPP) in healthcare, said MI Sahadulla, Group Chairman and Managing Director, KIMSHEALTH, Kerala’s largest player in the private sector. 

“We should learn from instances of success of such camaraderie, though borne more out of helplessness during the pandemic than design,” he told businessline here.

“The important thing to know is this has worked to mutual advantage. This has been replicated even before in Kerala, though in far fewer than desired numbers. This is a great platform to build on,” he said. 

Firm believer in healthcare PPP

Reiterating that he is a firm believer in the power and ingenuity of PPP in healthcare, Sahadulla said governments should be a little more flexible.

The private sector should be given the space it deserves in the architecture, backed up by a message that acknowledges this in public. Only this can ensure a smooth rollout of a well-designed PPP. 

If the government gets paid for its services through a tax, the private sector has recourse to tariffs/fees. A give-and-take approach from either side can help set up common ground.

The government may have subsidised services by tapping into taxpayer money. The private sector does not enjoy the luxury but has tried its best to play within the confines dictated by its limits. 

Better public messaging

The government of India is doing a lot of things to PPP and is also open to promote the private sector in healthcare.

“In Kerala though, we lack a well-thought-out plan or action. There have been isolated cases where the private sector was called to intervene. We are talking about a State where the private sector provides 70 per cent of healthcare,” Sahadulla said. 

“We (the private sector) have more facilities, better visibility and accessibility. All at a cost since we invest a lot from our own resources. We want to survive and make a small profit. We need to be not only recognised for doing that but also lauded for a good job done in most cases. Only then the government earns our trust,” he said. 

Trust factor involved

Sahadulla noted that there’s a trust factor that decides the way forward.

“Lots of fallacies exist in the private healthcare sector which needs to be corrected. But this is true with the public sector as well. Nothing comes for free these days, and so there is a cost for services. We must appreciate the fact that the public and private sectors are two sides of the same coin and there is a need for both to work together and collaborate to mutual advantage now, more than ever,” Sahadulla said. 

He also mentioned that the private sector can run whenever government systems or equipment fail, and can afford to offer service at government rates.