Interview: Eugène Aka-Aouélé
How technologically mature is the country’s health sector, and what is being done to improve this?
EUGÈNE AKA-AOUÉLÉ: In line with the World Health Organisation’s most recent recommendations, the concept of eHealth was introduced in Côte d’Ivoire. This is an important step as the use of technology has made significant contributions to improving access to information, heightening health understanding through patient-centred e-learning, facilitating information exchange, and developing real-time services such as telemedicine and computerised patient records.
Unfortunately, the UN Industrial Development Organisation e-Governance Development Index ranks Côte d’Ivoire’s technological maturity 171st globally, which does not reflect the progress the country has made. The administrative side of the health system has improved somewhat since 2012, as has the implementation of e-governance. Furthermore, some administrative procedures have become paperless, which has simplified the lives of citizens by systematising health information and making archives accessible electronically.
Innovative projects have also been implemented for health care providers, including devices for functional exploration and diagnostic assistance, and the gradual implementation of computerised patient records in hospitals. In the short term the aim is to encourage the digital transformation of the Ivorian health system. These technologies will then need to be extended across all health care facilities through a strategic plan for integrating ICT into the health sector.
To what extent are the public and private sectors collaborating to improve health care provision?
AKA-AOUÉLÉ: The health sector has always been a priority for Côte d’Ivoire. The government has focused on supporting private sector development because it contributes greatly to the population’s well-being and quality of medical care. In 2015 a reform of the health care system was launched, which aims to provide high-quality and efficient management of public and private facilities for universal medical coverage.
The current government’s objectives include promoting and regulating the private sector; ensuring all institutions are up to standard; strengthening the legal framework; financing private sector organisations; and developing public-private partnerships. From the beginning of 2019 there will be a particular emphasis on care quality control and upgrading equipment.
How are efforts to expand the sector’s infrastructural capacity paying off?
AKA-AOUÉLÉ: A lack of investment has affected national health coverage on all levels since the 2000s. In order to overcome this, the government has implemented the Presidential Emergency Programme’s health component, which includes the construction, rehabilitation and equipping of health facilities; various initiatives to strengthen technical platforms; and the completion of several hospitals, university hospital centres and specialised health centres across the country.
As the challenges remain significant, a major health centre network extension programme was announced by the government at the Presidential Health Council on August 9, 2017. By the end of 2020 it is hoped that the number of regional hospital centres will have increased to 22, and that there will be 98 general hospitals and six university hospitals. In addition, three university hospitals, seven regional hospitals and nine general hospitals will benefit from the rehabilitation and re-equipment programme, and new services will be added to five hospitals. Lastly, 200 health centres are planned to be built throughout the country.
These investments will not only bring health facilities closer to the population, but also improve the management of serious diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease, cancer and kidney failure. This will attract people beyond the national borders, helping to build Côte d’Ivoire as a subregional centre for health care.
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