Interim government’s plan to tackle Libyan medical crisis and rebuild hospitals

By Onome Akpogheneta | 2 November 2011

“There is a huge opportunity for British companies, and I would advise anyone hoping to do business to go there as quickly as possible”– Karl Blanchet, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Libya’s new government is planning to double health-care spending to overhaul the country’s war-ravaged hospitals, according to a report leaked to Exaro.

The blueprint drawn up by the National Transitional Council (NTC), the country’s interim government, says it plans to spend €400 million a month, plus an initial injection of €200 million, to rebuild the Libyan health system.

The 26-page dossier – which reveals huge opportunities for businesses in the global health and pharmaceutical sectors – gives a detailed run-down of the new government’s health-care priorities and budgets.

The NTC has made clear that health is the main sector in which Libya is seeking to buy from overseas businesses, saying that the country urgently needs medical equipment and to rebuild its hospitals.

The new director of Libya’s Ministry of Health is Dr Nagi Giumma Barakat, who worked for nearly 20 years as a consultant paediatrician at Hillingdon Hospital in London and is an honorary neurology consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital. The NTC recalled him from London to Libya in the spring to oversee the creation of the health-care plan and to head the reformed ministry.

He says in the foreword to the plan: “For decades, the Libyan people have suffered from the ill-effects of under investment, poor planning and mismanagement. Our health service is one of the sectors that have been the most affected. There has never been a coherent budget or strategic plan.”

He continues: “This document provides the basis of a comprehensive review and prioritisation of our needs. The conclusions and recommendations clarify the levels of funding required, the professional services we need to source and manage, and the structures we need to create.”

Barakat has estimated that 30,000 people were killed, and 50,000 others wounded, in Libya’s eight-month civil war.

He concludes his foreword by saying: “The months to come will not be easy. But a free Libya has a prosperous future. We are committed to ensuring that the most urgent needs are met in the short-term, and that we build our health system in the medium- and longer-term.”

Libya’s new government must rebuild the country following the death of Muammar Gaddafi and the collapse of his ruling regime. On a separate issue, Exaro revealed last week that Britain has secured a secret deal with the NTC to pay compensation for victims of terrorist attacks carried out in the UK by the IRA with Gaddafi-supplied explosives.

The health-care blueprint, entitled, ‘Libya Emergency Medical and Health-care Plan’, was drawn up in June in preparation for the final collapse of the Gaddafi regime.

Karl Blanchet, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and a leading authority on the administration of health services, was commissioned by the NTC to write the health-care plan with Timothy Grey, senior partner at the Millbrook Partnership, an international development consultancy.

Blanchet told Exaro: “Agents who know the country have been hired by health-care companies and are already in Libya offering free help and drugs. They are building relationships with the new regime.

“There is a huge opportunity for British companies, and I would advise anyone hoping to do business to go there as quickly as possible and register their interest. They are going to negotiate contracts to equip hospitals. I expect that is going to be huge business, a huge market for the medical supply companies.”

Much of the initial funding will come from international donors, such as the World Health Organisation and United Nations agencies, as well as non-government organisations, says the report. However, Libya is expected to be able to meet its own health-care costs in future once its oil starts flowing again.

“Libya is not a middle-income country,” adds Blanchet. “It is a rich one.”

“It will open up a huge market that private companies will be encouraged to fill.”

The report highlights how, under Gaddafi, only three per cent of Libya’s gross domestic product (GDP) had been spent on health care. In 2010, the International Monetary Fund estimated that Libya’s GDP was more than $90 billion.

Blanchet says that the NTC will increase the proportion of GDP spent on the health system to between seven and ten per cent, which is more in line with West European countries.

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