Tunis/Tunisia — Nearly 97% of private clinics are no longer able to cover their operating costs due to the coronavirus crisis, according to a study on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on private clinics in Tunisia conducted by the Tunisia Health Alliance.
This study, the first in a series on the social, economic and financial impact on the health sub-sectors, warns that the situation of the private healthcare sector is alarming and calls for specific short-, medium- and long-term measures to be taken in response to the health crisis.
The recommendations proposed in the study cover both an emergency plan that will help alleviate the financial burden on clinics, a recovery plan for deconfinement and better patient care and a development plan that will ensure better dialogue between public and private structures.
The study was conducted on the basis of a questionnaire sent to the managers of the various Tunisian private clinics to represent a significant sample. 43 out of 100 existing establishments replied to the questionnaire, representing nearly 70% of the beds in the sector and covering 13 governorates of the Tunisian territory.
One clinic out of two has lost at least 85% of its turnover.
During the COVID-19 crisis, the study shows that one out of two clinics lost at least 85% of their usual turnover and 3/4 of the clinics lost at least 70% of their turnover. With fixed expenses representing nearly 41% of usual sales, 97% of the clinics are no longer able to cover their operating expenses.
This drop in turnover is explained in particular by the limitation of medical activity to urgent procedures, the virtual halt of consultations, the restriction of movement and the reduction in the influx of patients, as well as the closure of borders, which has blocked the flow of foreign patients.
With the general economic crisis, the clinics foresee a 30% drop in local market demand for the next period and a gradual recovery of international activity only in early 2021, when one clinic in two makes at least 40% of its turnover from foreign patients.
9,000 jobs threatened
According to the same source, nearly half of the clinics will have difficulty paying May salaries and only 2.5% of the clinics will manage to pay their employees' salaries until August.
"At the level of the sector, over 10 million dinars of monthly payroll will not be paid and more than 9,000 jobs will be threatened out of the 17,000 highly skilled jobs in the sector," the study said.
A strategic sector to be preserved
Tunisia has nearly 100 private clinics nationwide employing nearly 17,000 employees, with a capacity of 6,000 beds (20% of the national capacity).
The sector has developed as a complement to the public offer and is positioned as a second line of care in the event of a health crisis and saturation of the public sector.
With a turnover estimated at 870 million dinars in 2019, the private clinic sector is part of a global ecosystem of health services that generates more than 2.5 billion dinars of direct and indirect income from exports.
Tunisia is indeed among the most popular destinations for medical tourism in the Middle East and North Africa region.
Created in April 2018, the Tunisia Health Alliance is a professional group of Tunisian companies operating across the entire health value chain in Tunisia and operating in the sub-sectors of the pharmaceutical industry, medical devices, health care services, further training and health technologies.