Kazakhstan’s government has placed great importance on improving the healthcare system of the country, and is now focused on the wellbeing of its citizens as well as strengthening its place among the world’s 50 most competitive economies. The main focus areas of the country’s healthcare sector reform program include improving productivity, increasing competition in public health through investments, and making health care cost effective for users.
Between 2004 and 2010, government expenditures for health care have increased by 4.2 times, reaching KZT573 billion ($3.8 billion) in 2011. The Unified National Health System was introduced to offer Kazakhstani citizens the option of receiving treatment at their health institution of choice with their preferred health care professionals. In 1Q2012, close to 190,000 people employed their right to choose a better healthcare provider, 45.2% of which were based in rural areas. Furthermore, the Unified Medicine Distribution System was implemented, which provides low-income citizens with free or affordable treatment and medicine. The government plans to allocate between 2.8% and 3% of GDP for public spending on the healthcare sector annually until 2015.
In order to support the developing healthcare system, the government is implementing a variety of new state programs as well as fostering international cooperation to implement global best practice. The state has instituted the “Salamatty Kazakhstan,” or National Healthcare Development Program, to address the needs of the sector over the 2011-2015 period. At the same time, the authorities have entered a joint agreement with the World Bank to continue progress on the Kazakhstan Healthcare Sector Technology Transfer and Institutional Reform project. The project aims to design a health system that meets global standards and sets the bar in the region for quality treatment. Drafted with the vision to improve the effectiveness of the public healthcare sector, “Salamatty Kazakhstan” implements a comprehensive approach to solve the major issues in the national healthcare system.
Some of the program’s 2015 objectives include increasing the population’s life expectancy to 70 years, decreasing the maternal mortality ratio to 24.5 per 100,000 births, reducing the infant mortality rate to 12.3 per 1,000 births, and lowering the number of people suffering from tuberculosis. According to 1Q2012 statistics from the Ministry of Health, the maternal mortality rate fell from 20.6 to 16.2 per 100,000 live births compared to the previous year. Over the same period, the infant mortality rate decreased from 15.8 to 14.3 per 1,000 live births, and the mortality rate caused by tuberculosis fell to 7.5 from 9.6 per 100,000.
The program also encompasses education for healthcare personnel in the country and abroad. At present, 20 PhD and 247 Master’s degree candidates are conducting research in the medical field, and 1,212 healthcare professionals are enrolled in residency courses. The Ministry of Health estimates that by the end of 2012, almost 20,000 healthcare professionals will have completed training in Kazakhstan, and 126 local specialists will have been educated abroad.
A joint project designed in collaboration with the World Bank, the Kazakhstan Health Sector Technology Transfer and Institutional Reform Project aims to introduce international standards and establish long-term institutional capacity in the healthcare system. The project is financed by a loan agreement signed in February 2008, and is being carried out by the Ministry of Health. The project also seeks to upgrade public healthcare offerings by focusing on modernizing control systems and financial management, as well as improving the quality of medical services and product supply for healthcare users.
PRIVATE SECTOR INVOLVEMENT
The healthcare system in Kazakhstan is predominantly under state supervision; 80% of medical institutions in Kazakhstan belong to the government. However, the government has driven efforts to increase private sector involvement in the healthcare system. In accordance with President Nazarbayev’s directives, the government is constructing 100 schools and 100 hospitals through public-private partnerships (PPPs).
An increased role for the private sector in the provision of healthcare services is already well perceived by market players. In an interview with TBY, Yerzhan Birtanov, CEO of National Medical Holding (NMH), attested that the “government cannot be the sole investor in social infrastructure. Demand is growing fast…at some point, the private sector needs to take over to meet increasing demand and keep up with the latest technology.”
Meanwhile, other actors see many business opportunities on the horizon as a result of the PPP trend. “There is a higher demand for companies that provide services and products at a more efficient cost.” Arman Lukmanov, General Manager of Kazanada, told TBY. “In the private healthcare sector, there are increasing opportunities to develop services for the middle class.”
A third point of view highlights room for growth. Private companies can add to increased market penetration and contribute to the overall success of the sector by introducing best international practices to the local healthcare market. Dr. Michael Zaydman, Director of Midagi Holdings B.V., told TBY that “there was very good technology in the private medical sector in Israel, and I aimed to implement it in Kazakhstan. We brought in a large amount of know-how and professional staff to the country, and educated our local doctors and nurses abroad. The company has now become a leader in providing private medical services and it is a leader in many segments.”
With an expanding number of private players and growing government interest and dedication, Kazakhstan’s healthcare sector is set to receive more attention and care in the future. As long as the government continues to inject funds into technology and infrastructure, the country will be home to a healthier population.
© The Business Year