Par excellence


By definition, the term Centres of Excellence (COE), refers to a team or shared facility that provides research, best practice and training in a specific medical field. While the number of COEs has diminished locally, the need for these is increasing in South Africa’s public sector.

Graham Anderson, CEO and principal officer at Profmed, says that COEs present life-changing medical assistance to those who need access to top quality healthcare at affordable prices. However, he notes that funding in the public sector has suffered, resulting in many of these medical hubs closing down and therefore creating a noticeable void in the medical field.

One such example is Folateng, a private wing at Johannesburg Academic Hospital, which closed down recently due to lack of funding. However, while COEs tend to have more longevity in the private sector, they have also shown exceptional success in the public sector when funded privately and run on the correct model. One example is the Baragwaneth Burn Unit, which is privately funded by Johnson & Johnson and successfully treats about 400 paediatric burn victims a year.

According to Anderson, Private Public Partnerships (PPPs) present a good opportunity to establish COEs in South Africa’s public sector. He adds that services of excellence should be available to the country as a whole and not just in the private sector. “Currently treatment for high cost diseases and other specialised treatment are only available in COEs that are privately owned and funded,” he explains. “However, the need for COEs in the public sector is far greater, as individuals within the lower income communities cannot afford the high cost of private healthcare. As such, we urge brands and businesses operating in South Africa to follow the example of organisations such as Johnson & Johnson, and take part in funding these extremely valuable medical resources.”

Anderson notes that for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH), currently being built in Johannesburg, serves as an excellent example of an upcoming COE in South Africa which will be made available to the public. “The establishment of a hospital on this scale, expected to be completed in 2016, is unlike anything South Africa has encountered and it will be one of only four specialist children’s hospitals in Africa.”

The hospital plans to house centres of excellence in the cardiothoracic, neurosciences, haematology and oncology, pulmonology, renal, general paediatric surgery and craniofacial surgery fields.

“This project also sets a benchmark for other COEs that may be established in the country in future. The excellent global funding structure which is driving the development of the NMCH spans across three continents, and has led to the project raising about R 580 million of the R1 billion goal so far. The funding for this project is said to come from high-net individuals as well as corporates with more than 50% of the total raised so far being done so locally,” continues Anderson.

“PPP’s in the field of Centres of Excellence in South Africa may have some way to go, particularly in terms of funding and support, however high profile establishments such as the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital will no doubt set a standard of best-practice internationally and locally. This will encourage both government and the private sector to engage in the much-needed conversation, eventually bringing COEs back to the forefront of the South African healthcare system,” concludes Anderson.

Brandon Lundie

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This edition

Issue 68