Dar es Salaam. President of Zanzibar Hussein Mwinyi on Monday defended his government’s decision to privatise some services in public hospitals, saying that the move aims at improving the provision of necessary health services to needy Zanzibaris.
The move by the semi-autonomous archipelago to privatise the services has left some observers with questions about the government’s role in providing essential health services to Zanzibaris, with some questioning its intentions.
So far, the government has privatised two primary services at some of its public hospitals, including laboratory services assigned to the Lancet Laboratories Tanzania Limited and imaging services privatised to NSK Hospital Arusha.
Speaking during the inauguration of a government hospital in Kivunge, Northern Region of Unguja on Monday, President Mwinyi admitted that some sections of the general public in the isles are opposed to the move but assured them that his administration’s intentions are good.
“In government-owned hospitals, it has occurred several times that when a particular equipment has functionality problems, it needs fixing, but the procedure dictates us to do so according to our Public Procurement [and Disposal of Public Assets] Act [No. 11 of 2016],” President Mwinyi said.
“When you announce a tender today – while an X-ray machine is not working – procedure dictates that the tender should be announced first for 45 days,” President Mwinyi added.
“When you’re done, you should evaluate to determine the best bidder,” he further explained. “When that’s done, you should allow dissatisfied bidders to appeal. It’ll be over five months until you get the necessary equipment.”
“In hospital services, you cannot do something like that,” Mwinyi concluded. “If you do that, people will get hurt. No patient can wait for a procurement system to be followed so that they can get the necessary service.”
Mwinyi, who came to power in 2020 through the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), first revealed the plan to privatise some services at the government hospital in April this year, noting that the goal is to improve service delivery in the isles.
However, there have been complaints regarding how the government gets suppliers for privatised services, with some noting that the suppliers are obtained in a process that violates the country’s laws and regulations.
In June this year, Zanzibar Minister of Health Nassor Mazrui caused an uproar when he said it was the government’s goal to privatise all governmental hospitals in the archipelago to improve service delivery.
Mr Mazrui, who belongs to the opposition party ACT-Wazalendo, which is a partner in the ruling Government of National Unity in Zanzibar (GNU), commented in the context of what he saw as a bad culture among government healthcare workers in Zanzibar, which he criticised for delaying services to those in need.
“It is high time that government workers should change,” Mr Mazrui said during a press conference. “They have to change whether they want it or not. We’ll change leadership in all hospitals, including Mnazi Mmoja Referal Hospital. We should stop entertaining business as usual.”
But in his address on Monday, President Mwinyi allayed healthcare workers’ fears of losing their jobs, telling them that no worker will be fired thanks to the privatisation of some services in government-owned hospitals.
“These reforms are well-intentioned,” President Mwinyi told the government’s healthcare workers. “It is not among these reforms’ objectives to remove anyone from their current employment. Government workers will remain in their employment.”