Netcare in limbo over the termination of its contentious Lesotho hospital partnership

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Private hospital group Netcare says it is yet to receive an official notice from the Lesotho government regarding the termination of its public-private partnership at the Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital.

Netcare runs the hospital's operations, as well as those of three filter clinics in Maseru, as part of the Tšepong consortium, in which it holds a 40% interest. The rest of the stake is held by another South African company, Afrinnai Health, which has a 20% shareholding.

Lesotho-based Excel health has 20%, while D10 Investments and Women Investment Company, also Lesotho-based, each has a 10% interest in the hospital.

But the project, which is in its 13th year of an 18 year contract, has hit a snag, with the government saying it will be terminated. At the heart of the dispute is the kingdom's government accusing Tšepong of non-compliance, while the consortium has said the state had missed payments for service it was provided with. However, the catalyst that led to the government's decision to walk away from the contract was allegedly a strike that ultimately resulted in 265 nurses being dismissed. 

On Tuesday, Netcare said the consortium had not agreed to the termination of the contract, while dismissing claims that it was not initiating the termination and it was still waiting to hear from the government on the way forward. As for the state moving to terminate the contract, Netcare's finance general manager Dr Chris Smith said this would not be in the best interest of the people of Lesotho or any of the shareholders.

Netcare remains committed to providing quality care, it said. "Netcare is privileged to be serving the Basotho with quality health care. The PPP project has brought a range of specialised services to Lesotho, unprecedented in the country's history, and significantly elevated the range and quality of health-care services accessible by the citizens of the Kingdom of Lesotho. Netcare awaits further guidance from the GoL [government of Lesotho] regarding their preferred way forward and is endeavouring to ensure continuity of services during this uncertain period," Smith said.

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