Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi (second left) and members of the board of directors at the TCCIMA. (Photo: Saeed Ameri)
Enhanced cooperation with the private sector is high on the agenda of President Hassan Rouhani’s government since it took office in 2013, in an effort to lead the economy out of recession

Hashemi Wants Private Sector to Take the Plunge in Healthcare

Health Minister Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi on Tuesday came down on the private sector for their lackadaisical interest in the national healthcare system.
“The government is ready to cooperate in every possible way, but the private sector is not willing to take risks and invest in the healthcare system and wants everything to be handed on a platter,” he said at a meeting of high-ranking officials from the Health Ministry and the private sector at the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture.
“That is why the bulk of healthcare is undertaken by the government, but the ministry is not trying to compete with the private sector in this area.”
The meeting was organized by the chamber to elicit answers from the minister to queries and allay concerns in the private sector regarding the ministry’s plans to set up chain herbal pharmacies, red tape in setting up laboratories by non-medical specialists, and the restrictions on imports like sugar and fizzy drinks as well as use of salt and sugar in food products.
Enhanced cooperation with the private sector is high on the agenda of President Hassan Rouhani’s government since it took office in 2013, in an effort to lead the economy out of recession.
The 2014 Health Reform Plan was launched to fulfill Rouhani’s election campaign promise of healthcare for all Iranians by 2018 under a nationwide health insurance program. The Health Ministry is also committed to curb the use of harmful foods and promote healthy lifestyles and reduce the huge annual costs that the treatment of non-communicable diseases impose on the economy.
“The curbs on imports of harmful products and their use in food items are laid down by the Council of Health and Food Security, and are necessary to meet the targets in the National Document on Non-Communicable Diseases,” Hashemi stressed.
Last October, the Food and Drug Administration banned imports of carbonated drinks, after it prohibited import of juices with high sugar content a month earlier as part of its drive to help ensure food safety. It also sent a proposal to the government to increase prices of sweet and greasy food products. Advertisement of unhealthy food products is also banned.

 Rules on Labs Revised
The minister noted that foreign investors have been more willing than local entities to invest in the national healthcare sector after the nuclear accord between Iran and the world powers came into effect in January.
He assured the chamber that the regulations stipulating that only physicians and medical graduates could set up laboratories had been revised and now interested investors can also open laboratories.
Hashemi also addressed a concern of the Pharmaceutical Society of Iran, medicine importers and distributers as well as lawmakers, on plans to set up traditional medicine pharmacies.
Early in July he had stated that the ministry was intending to set a chain of herbal pharmacies across the 31 provinces which would function separately from the chemical pharmacies, and that “these pharmacies, which would take several years to be established, would gradually replace herbal shops”.
“There are a large number of medical students who have studied in traditional medicine, and cannot put their knowledge to use in any other area,” he told the chamber.
“We abandoned our rich culture of traditional medicine for over 30 years, and now that the Iranian traditional medicine has been integrated into the national healthcare system, it’s time we harnessed the potentials, instead of sending students to countries like China to learn and provide treatment in herbal medicine.”
Noting that increased life expectancy (80 in women and 75 in mean) has raised the national demand for healthcare services, he said the government will not spare efforts to meet people’s needs.
“If local producers (of medicine and medical devices) offer the same quality and price as foreign equivalents available in the market, we will support them,” he said. He pointed out that 30,000 hospital beds and thousands of equipment such as monitors for the operation rooms have been replaced since the government took office in 2013. All this equipment was purchased in the local market.

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