Half a billion in aid for private healthcare condemned by campaigners

Monday, 25 January, 2021

New research, published by Global Justice Now today, shows how half a billion pounds of UK public funds have been invested in private healthcare in the global south in the past decade. This includes £420 million invested by the UK development bank CDC Group, plus £79 million given to a project to increase UK health exports.

The report condemns the investments made by CDC in private healthcare, arguing that these projects exclude citizens from basic services and rights, and highlights a number of particularly worrying case studies, including:

  • Serious allegations of systemic overcharging made against a CDC-backed hospital in Kenya. The Nairobi Women’s Hospital, unaffordable to many Kenyans,  has been accused of overcharging patients, with staff claiming the hospital “resembled a trading floor";
  • Hospitals in Bangladesh and Pakistan accused of overcharging patients throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, including Evercare Dhaka and Evercare Lahore which lists its price for a hospital room with a ventilator as approximately £350 a day (over four times the average monthly wage);
  • Other UK-backed hospitals face criticism for closing departments during the coronavirus pandemic or, in the case of Vikram Hospital in Bengaluru, India, being forced to close after refusing to treat government-referred coronavirus patients.
  • Investments with no apparent development impact, including a “premium and budget” fitness club chain in Brazil which runs “one of the most expensive fitness centers based in Sao Paulo".

Daniel Willis, development campaigner at Global Justice Now, said: 

"These investments are supposed to help tackle poverty but, by working with unaffordable hospitals in the private sector, CDC is supporting services that exclude low-income groups and have even refused to treat COVID patients. Increasingly it seems this government’s approach to aid is about supporting big business and not universal healthcare.

CDC and the U.K. government should stop promoting private healthcare and should help governments mobilise the finances to provide it publicly themselves. We also believe that, with deep and misguided cuts to the development budget ahead, CDC should not receive the £779 million funding increase planned for this Spring so that more effective projects can be protected instead."

The research was covered in two separate articles in the Times (paywall), here and here

Read the full report here. 

Photo: Protestors demand affordable healthcare access at a rally in the US. Credit: Molly Adams/Flickr