Kabul, June 10 – More than 150 participants including doctors, medical technicians, medical facility administrators, equipment suppliers and service providers gathered today at the Safi Landmark for a two-day Medical Technology Conference to discuss the requirements and considerations of investing in medical technology and medical services in Afghanistan.
While both health care professionals and the general public clearly perceive the need for investments in the medical sector, there is a general lack of knowledge within the private sector of what investments can profitably be made in medical technology and services while contributing to the availability and quality of healthcare available to Afghans. Private sector investment in medical technology is a relatively new field in Afghanistan. The management of such investments from conception through operation of the business requires an understanding of infrastructural, financial and human resource development factors that will ultimately impact the safety and quality of medical services as well as the sustainability and profitability of private medical facilities.
In his opening speech, Dr. Asheq Khan Sadaty, Director of Diagnostic Services at the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), noted the relevance and importance of the conference, saying that both public and private hospitals in Afghanistan “obviously need a lot of help” to improve their capacities, particularly in providing diagnostics and treatment services. “The main problem in Afghanistan is the very low level of capacity of medical facilities in operating and maintaining various medical equipment. We need to establish standards and develop clear policies and strategies in order to properly provide medical services,” he said.
Dr. Ahmad Shah Salehi, Director of Health Economics and Financing at MoPH, estimated that as much as 50 percent of the diagnostic and treatment equipment in public and private hospitals is not being used due to lack of qualified operators or because the equipment cannot be maintained and repaired. “The main reason is that hospital staff are not properly trained in using and maintaining the equipment. Hospitals have procured or received equipment from various donors, but without properly trained medical technologists or bio-engineers, these expensive high-end items of equipment are damaged and rendered useless,” said Dr. Salehi.
Other conference speakers included international experts in healthcare development and the planning of investments in medical technology and services, and Afghan leaders in healthcare fields such as radiology, the professional development of medical technologists. Speakers discussed the different aspects of planning and investing in medical technology services, using case studies and
real-life experiences and panel discussions. Participants highlighted the different challenges faced by both private and public sector medical facilities trying to upgrade patient services, and also engaged the speakers on questions about standards, investment costs and how to access investment planning assistance. Other panel discussions presented options available for financing medical technology investments, telemedicine technology, and hospital management information systems.
Some of the key themes that emerged from the first day of the conference included:
- a need for better data about the current state of both services and equipment available, as well as the functional status of the equipment.
- the need for clarity or a better understanding within both the public and private sector on the function, purpose, and implementation of standards in the health care industry, and how they should be applied in Afghanistan.
- a critical need for biomedical technicians to properly install, operate, maintain and repair equipment.
- a strong sense among both participants and speakers that the healthcare community as a whole, both public and private sector, are agreed that improvements and upgrades need to be made, but there is a need for continued dialogue on how this can happen.
- the fact that if a fraction of the funds spent by Afghans that travel abroad to access health care were invested in Afghanistan on the right facilities, equipment, and training, the returns on that investment would be enormous.
Many of the participants expressed the need for continued dialogue, bringing together the medical community in order to develop practical, feasible, and well planned improvements in the medical sector.
The conference was organized by USAID’s Assistance in Building Afghanistan by Developing Enterprises (ABADE) Program in collaboration with private sector partners, namely: Arif Azim, Star Imaging & Path Lab, Asia Pharma, Qasemi Group of Companies, Afghanistan Canadian Hospital, Global Innovations Consultancy Services and International Healthcare Development, Dubai.
ABADE is a four-year project that started in October 2012. It partners with private sector enterprises and supports investments that will contribute to a growing economy, job creation, and the transfer of technology and management skills to Afghan enterprises.