Is the Colombian health system reform improving the performance of public hospitals?
Many countries are experimenting with public hospital reform - both increasing the managerial autonomy with which hospitals conduct their affairs, and separating 'purchaser' and 'provider' sides of the health system, thus increasing the degree of market pressure brought to bear on hospitals. Evidence suggesting that such reform will improve hospital performance is weak. From a theoretical perspective, it is not clear why public hospitals should be expected to behave like firms and seek to maximise profits as this model requires. Empirically, there is very slight evidence that such reforms may improve efficiency, and reason to be concerned about their equity implications. In Colombia, an ambitious reform programme includes among its measures the attempt to universalise a segmented health system, the creation of a purchaser-provider split and the transformation of public hospitals into 'autonomous state entities'. By design, the Colombian reform programme avoids the forces which produce equity losses in other developing countries. This paper reports the results of a study which has tried to track hospital performance in other dimensions in the post-reform period in Bogotá. Trends in hospital inputs, production and productivity, quality and patient satisfaction are presented, and qualitative data based on interviews with hospital workers are analysed.
Health Policy and Planning (2003) 18 (2), 182-194