Health sector and Procurement rules: let’s build bridges
Health, COVID-19 and procurement: where is the missing link?
There is increasing interest -exemplified by webinars- to better grasp the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lessons that could be taken away to improve the procurement procedures countries face.
It appears once more that the health sector with its array of sophisticated idiosyncrasies and high level of technicity, but also unfathomable volatility poses a challenge to infrastructure and procurement specialists.
While many procurement and capital project experts would happily concede that health specialists are not always cognizant of the procurement legal framework (i.e. sketchily the legislative and regulatory binding norms applying across the policy spectrum to all government sectors), could it work both ways?
Procurement is primarily a set of public law rules. These administrative law norms will specify what rules government, public bodies or agencies (including purchasers and hospitals for instance) will purchase works, goods and services. It generally entails the respect of principles such as fairness, competition and transparency.
It will specify processes and procedures applicable to the type of purchase based on amount, size and contract typology.
The thing with health is….it is complicated. When health specialists may want to adjust the whole procurement rules applicable to all public sector activities, for health purposes solely, or when they understand procurement as the rules regulating the drug market, there is a need to bring in public law insight: procurement cannot always be adapted for one single sector of the public service.
And it is as concerned with drugs as with other supplies (think medical devices but also all materials required to operate a ministry of health for instance), with consulting services, the construction and operation of health assets or the provision of utilities in health centres.
Conversely infrastructure and procurement specialists may at times apprehend the complexity of the health sector and its myriad of activities through the rather reductive lens of equipment supplies. A recent webinar on the COVID-19 legacy for more resilient procurement strategy provided an illustrating example of an interesting series of perspective on procurement in the time of a pandemic.
However, it was focusing mainly on the supply of masks and ventilators which truly were absolutely essential to help health systems cope with the situation but may not encompass all the challenges faced during COVID-19.
What about the vaccine supply chain? What about the shortage of manufactured medical devices? What about accelerating HTA processes? What about the effects of the pandemics on the procurement of health infrastructure? On the operation of health assets or the closure of capital projects deals?
The webinar raised questions pertaining to emergency procurement procedures or negotiated procedures in order to entice countries to adopt them in this context. If health specialists had been present they could have confirmed that such emergency procedures are in use in different regions of the world.
This is perhaps one of the takeaway from the COVID-19 situation; the more the merrier, but most importantly the more the better: let’s complement capabilities and perspectives to generate the best insights.
Let’s ensure that health specialists benefit from the expertise of legal (public business law and procurement), infra and capital projects specialists. And vice-versa.
Together we can grow the body of knowledge and bring practical solutions for decision makers. This is our pledge at Decide! Your Health Decision Hub works with public law practitioners with knowledge of public procurement, health managers and health systems specialists to combine their insight and craft practical guidance. Interested?