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6 Apr 2014

Sarah Boseley, Guardian (UK)

Half of Lesotho health budget goes to private consortium for one hospital

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[Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Netcare to respond to this article & Oxfam's report; see response below.] A flagship hospital built in Lesotho using public/private financing...threatens to bankrupt the...country's health budget. More than half [its]...health budget...is...spent on payments to the private consortium that built and runs the hospital...led by South-Africa-based Netcare... Oxfam...says the healthcare of the poorest people is at risk, as the...hospital draws off money that is badly needed for clinics in rural areas...Public/private partnerships to build hospitals have a poor track record even in the wealthy west...Oxfam says this is a dangerous model for low-income countries...It is sharply critical of the International Finance Corporation (IFC)...which advised Lesotho on the deal and is now discussing similar projects with Nigeria and Benin...The IFC says care has improved at the hospital....built to replace the Queen Elizabeth II hospital...Death rates have since dropped there overall by 41%, children's deaths from pneumonia by 65% and stillbirths by 22%, although deaths on the medical wards and among female surgery patients appear to have risen. Data collection at the old hospital for comparison, however, was not always reliable...Geoffrey Keele of the IFC queried the figures in the report, but said..."The World Bank group shares Oxfam's concern that the health network in Lesotho is being overburdened as it attempts to fulfil greater-than-anticipated public demand for basic health services. The World Bank group is working with the government of Lesotho to strengthen the country's health system so that everyone in Lesotho, especially the poorest, can access...essential health services..." [also refers to Tsepong Ltd (joint venture Netcare & Govt. of Lesotho)]