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  • Writer's pictureKatherine Jennings

Opportunity COVID-19: Bridging the gap between public and private sectors

The past few months at Impact for Health have been filled with research and conversations about mixed health system governance during COVID-19. We have noticed an interesting recurring phenomenon: 

The pandemic has uniquely created a sense of good-will between public and private sectors.

Pre-COVID19, many countries noted that initiating private-public partnerships was challenging due to a lack of common interest, negative perception of the private sector, lack of data, and more. Lack of trust in the private sector and lack of efficiency in the public sector contributed to a divisive atmosphere, not conducive to collaboration.

While these challenges still exist, the private sector has been quick to offer essential services to governments in many countries. The initiation and development of these partnerships has allowed for the sectors to gain a better understanding about the other, and the circumstances under which they operate. COVID-19 created a sense of goodwill between public and private entities both in Myanmar and South Africa, where it was lacking pre-pandemic. 

The pandemic expedited the public private dialogue process in Myanmar. Stakeholders from both the public and private sector collaborated in a 5-week public-private dialogue sprint to provide a surge in capacity to the respond to the pandemic. Using this platform, they have established a working group who will implement a workplan to increase access to affordable testing.

“COVID-19 gave a common goal… it expedited the public private dialogue. It is a very good catalyst to materialize the public private dialogue in health in a shorter timeline”.

In South Africa, the private sector was quick to go governments and offer support. COVID-19 facilitated collaboration between the sectors, leading them to develop a strategy on how to increase treatment capacity. The government is currently financing private hospitals to treat severely ill COVID-19 patients if public hospitals capacity is maximized.

“We learned that when you're under stress, you're forced to spend a lot of time together, and it's been really good for us all to see how the other half lives and what their challenges and frustrations are. The good news is that we tested this relationship and the systems and have found out that we actually can work together.” 

With a shared goal comes collaboration, and this leads to the development of a systematic mechanism for the private sector to be engaged in the health system. The unfortunate COVID-19 situation has created the potential for health systems to harness synergy between public and private entities. This can be used to mitigate the detrimental effects of COVID-19 and to make progress on UHC goals.


Have you observed goodwill between public and private sectors (where it did not exist before COVID-19) in your country context? Please reach out to if so. 


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