Partnering with the private healthcare sector and civil society has now become an imperative if the shortcomings of the public sector are to be not only addressed but resolved, Department of Health director-general, Precious Matsoso, insisted in a well-received talk to KZN Doctors Healthcare Coalition (KZNDHC) Conference delegates in Durban at the weekend.

The public sector, she admitted, is constrained not only in terms of infrastructure and resource, but also in access to innovative technology – one area from which it can benefit substantially by engaging with the private sector.

“Being engaged with the private sector,” she added, “doesn’t mean we are ‘captured’! What we do have to do is ask ourselves: with this resource, what can we do to benefit from it? How do we bridge the gaps?

“As I see it, it offers the potential for large scale projects in health care with a triple benefit i.e. for government in terms of capital, a better service for patients and for the private sector, a sustainable return on investment.”

The public sector was now “bursting at the seams with increased workloads” and government, now more than ever, the D-G acknowledged, has a pivotal role in meeting these challenges: “What we have to guard against now is over-regulation – and under-regulation for that matter – in managing and improving our systems. We therefore need to find appropriate regulation that can deliver the services our people need. Defining the role of all parties is also important particularly when it comes to the transfer of knowledge – how best to allow for innovation while protecting our public.

“As we partner,” Matsoso cautioned, “we have to recognise the potential for risk so it is critical that we look at how we can do what needs to be done safely with no risk.”

Concluding, in a direct reference to the KZN doctors conference theme of co-ordination, collaboration and integration of all parties in healthcare, she extended an invitation to participants in this initiative to get all private sector stakeholders working together to engage with government on an ongoing and beneficial partnership basis.