Unique hospital handover in Dolakha

Charikot Hospital in 2015 after it was upgraded from a primary health care centre by Nyaya Health Nepal. Photo: Nyaya Health Nepal.

In one of the few arrangements of its kind in Nepal, a public-private partnership initiative has handed over to the local government the management of Charikot Hospital which had been run by a private non-profit organisation ever since the earthquake five years ago

Bhimeswar Municipality took over the hospital from the group Nyaya Health Nepal on 30 October in an innovative and successful DBOT (Design, Build, Operate, Transition) model which is significant in Nepal’s new federal structure where local governments take on more responsibility for grassroots healthcare delivery.

This is especially remarkable considering that improving public sector healthcare, especially in rural areas, has been a challenge in Nepal. The country’s already under-resourced healthcare is also under strain because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Nyaya Health signed an agreement with the Ministry of Health in 2015 to rebuild the damaged healthcare facilities in Dolakha and upgrade the primary healthcare centre in Charikot into a full-fledged hospital. The organisation was building on its experience in Achham where it manages Bayalpata Hospital under a similar partnership model since 2009. 

Although there are other similar activities in Nepal’s public health sector, especially in the distribution of healthcare products, there are only a handful examples of partnerships that are for overall management of health institutions. The government's readiness to adopt innovations that have been put in place through the partnership is unique, and unprecedented.

The transfer of management has been smooth -- Bhimeswar Municipality has retained 40 hospital employees recruited by Nyaya Health, and will continue the internal management procedures, monitoring of quality service, and a digital health information system.

In the past five years, Nyaya Health provided more than 335,000 people in Dolakha with direct free health care, repaired 19 earthquake damaged health posts, and handed them over to the local government ensuring the delivery of health services.

The handover ceremony of the Charikot Hospital on 30 October to the Bhimeswar Municpality by Nyaya Health Nepal after a unique private-public partnership project. All Photos: NHN

The hospital also saw the introduction of digital patient records, development of a performance based system for staff, training and development, expansion of community health and mental health services, addition of infrastructure, equipment and services, and for the past eight months has been at the forefront of an effective Covid-19 response.

As a result, Dolakha’s overall health indicators such as the rate for institutional delivery, neonatal mortality and other parameters have seen marked improvements in the catchment area population in the past five years.

Patients in the maternity ward of the Charikot Hospital of Dolakha District where the mother child survival rate has improved in the past five years.

What was unique was that the Government of Nepal and Nyaya Health Nepal both invested in strengthening healthcare during the partnership period – the government with a community hospital grant, medicine and equipment, human resources and Nyaya Health put in $6.8 million and managed treatment and care in the hospital.

Recently, the Bagmati Province government declared Charikot Hospital a ‘provincial hospital’ and this paved the way for additional local investment from the continuity of ongoing services. Under Nepal’s federal structure, every municipality is allotted a budget specifically to improve the local health system. This has increased access to health care, and raised the health status of the local population. Dolakha’s health care system thus literally ‘built back better’ after the earthquake.

Under the terms of the handover, Nyaya Health Nepal transferred to Bhimeswar Municipality all fixed assets and consumables worth Rs62.67 million, its digital systems, and the ownership of all data collected for service management and quality improvement.

Even after the handover, Nyaya Health Nepal will continue back stopping the Municipality in some areas like technical assistance in managing the Electronic Health Record (EHR), monitoring and evaluation, and service improvement till the end of this fiscal year. Nyaya Health, in turn can use data from the hospital for research, including for ongoing projects.

Specialist services with consultants have also been arranged keeping in view the needs of the patients. The federal or provincial governments need to manage the necessary Rs2.5 million per month for specialist care, which are beyond the coverage of basic health services.

The municipality has set up an inter-municipal fund to ensure access to care, particularly for the underprivileged at Charikot Hospital, which is providing services also as a referral hospital for the surrounding municipalities and districts.

This handover proves that strengthening healthcare is possible only through a multi-dimensional partnership with short-term support, innovation in healthcare delivery and management, long-term planning and resource management. 

Ultimately, it is the government’s responsibility to ensure healthcare for all, and partnerships like these are useful to jump-start the process. Nepal has established itself as a modern progressive and welfare state, with the Constitution pledging to make basic healthcare a fundamental right of all citizens. 

In Dolakha, we took a path of a partnership between the government and a non-government entity to lay the foundation of accessible healthcare for all. The central and local governments have now taken the lead for its continuation. 

We hope that this will be an example for other municipalities and provincial governments that are trying to strengthen health services, and are seeking a model to follow.

Bharat Bahadur KC is the Mayor of Bhimeswar Municipality and SP Kalaunee is Executive Director of Nyaya Health Nepal. [email protected]

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