Private healthcare provision is growing in low and middle income countries. The poor, as well as the rich, often seek health care from private providers, including for conditions of public health importance such as malaria, tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted infections. The reasons cited by users include better and more flexible access, shorter waiting, greater confidentiality, and greater sensitivity to user needs. International policymakers are currently recommending greater use of private providers on the grounds that they offer consumers greater choice; increase competition in the healthcare market; and remove state responsibility for service provision, thereby encouraging its role as regulator and guarantor. We should, however, be concerned.
When examined, the quality of care offered by many private providers is poor. Furthermore, poor people spend a greater proportion of their income on health care (private or public) than do the rich, often using less qualified or totally untrained private providers.
Zwi, A.; Brugha, R.; Smith, E. Private health care in developing countries. BMJ (2001) 323 (7311) 463-464. [DOI: 10.1136/bmj.323.7311.463]