In an exclusive discussion with Focus Reports, Egyptian Minister of Health, Dr. Ahmed El Din Rady sets out his blueprint for improving the nation’s welfare and securing positive public health outcomes with a 4-point plan based on human capital development, accessibility, countering hepatitis C, and large-scale infrastructural intervention.
My foremost objective as Minister for Health is to concentrate on improving the quality of the human resources of the Egyptian public health sector: the physicians and nurses working out of more than 700 hospitals run by the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population.
As such, I have been busy designing and implementing two new programs. The first relates to a comprehensive training scheme that all doctors employed by the Ministry of Health must now pass through. Meanwhile we have also developed a second continuous professional development program dedicated to nurses, that lays the groundwork for the higher education of nurses and I have enacted a new policy to kick-start the implementation of this program.
Laying the groundwork for the reform and expansion of the national health insurance system is my second area of focus. Accessible and sustainably financed healthcare is essential for the Egyptian people and critical to their prosperity and welfare, yet it is missing from Egypt today. Over the last six months, I have been in constant discussions with the Ministry of Finance with a view to developing a sustainable financial model for an expanded health insurance system. The law is now nearly finalized and will likely be presented to parliament in the near future: the criteria have been set, the various items and articles laid out and written, and we are now waiting on some financial reports and studies that are nearly complete.
My third priority is about driving and strengthening the national campaign against the hepatitis C virus, which is an epidemic in Egypt. It has been my longstanding goal to reduce the cost of treatment for hepatitis C as much as possible, and I have worked extensively with the manufacturers of anti-virals like Sovaldi, Harvoni, and Daklinza and their locally produced generic versions to reduce the price as much as possible. The price of generic Sovaldi has been decreased from EGP 9200 to 600. With these lower prices, treatment is now far more accessible for patients paying for medications out of pocket, and the Ministry can now finance the treatment of significantly larger patient populations.
We are have already made a lot of headway on this front. A demographic health survey that was completed two months ago released highly positive findings, which demonstrate that the incidence of HCV infection has been reduced from 10 percent of Egypt’s population in 2010 to just 7 percent by the end of 2015. With this sort of progress, and with anti-viral drugs being sold for more accessible prices than ever before, we are hopeful that by 2020 we will be able to eradicate HCV from Egypt, Insha’Allah.
Finally, my fourth and final priority as Minister of Health is to raise the capabilities and state of repair of the public healthcare facilities in Egypt. Right now the Ministry of Health manages some 700 hospitals of which some are requiring upgrade. I am working to address this issue from multiple directions. The Ministry has selected one hospital in each district of Cairo and one in each city in the governorates to be renovated, repaired, and re-equipped. Meanwhile, the human resources of the hospitals are being improved as well through the continuous education programs we have recently enacted.
At the same time, as we work to improve these strategically chosen healthcare facilities, 137 new hospitals are being built, which will greatly improve the quality and sophistication of the healthcare services that the ministry of health can provide. We are also striving to improve the quality and accessibility of primary healthcare units, which we consider to be the first line of defense in protecting public health. New complexes will be constructed in the governorates of BeniSuef, Qena, Sohag, Asyut and Minya, and after we finish in these governorates we will continue to scale up and overhaul healthcare infrastructure across other areas of the country.