Making a difference to those in need of better healthcare
Bigen has expanded its service offering to African clients with a new focus on healthcare provision facilitation, and has appointed an expert in the field to spearhead this new development.
As the Group’s Managing Director for Health, Dr Victor Letsoejane Litlhakanyane is determined to realise his long-held aspiration of improving access to quality healthcare services to underprivileged communities on the African continent.
“The extreme disparity in access to quality healthcare between the impoverished and the wealthy has come under the spotlight with the South African government putting plans in place to introduce national health insurance,” says Dr Victor, as he is affectionately known. “According to research, more than 80% of the country’s population depends on the public healthcare system that is simply not sufficient in its service provision. There is a pressing need for improvements to access, facilities and staffing at both hospitals as well as primary health care clinics.”
Acutely aware of these needs, and based on his extensive experience in the medical and healthcare sectors, he has long felt the calling to help make a difference to those in need of better healthcare, a mission that resonates strongly with Bigen’s creed of “doing good while doing business and its vision of improving quality of life.
His vision for the Group’s role is largely to ensure that the difference between healthcare provided to the privileged and the underprivileged is bridged, and that technology and education are used to streamline the processes involved in the provision of healthcare.
“Bigen aims to provide an end-to-end service, from feasibility and fund sourcing to designing and managing healthcare facilities,” Dr Victor explains. “This vision will be achieved by leveraging both public and private sector resources, and identifying communities which are lacking in basic healthcare.”
His commitment to making a difference in the healthcare sector stems from his own determination to be a doctor despite challenges he faced. He acknowledges the role that his community played in his upbringing and support whilst at Medical School. That support enabled him to enroll at the University of Natal and complete his MB ChB degrees. He thrived at university and was elected in leadership roles at the Medical Students’ Representative Council, Alan Taylor Residence House Committee, Black Sport Union and the Happy Valley Clinic Committee.
After graduating and registering as a Radiation and Clinical Oncologist with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), he was ready to pursue a career in clinical practice and mentoring of others, but the universe had other plans. Shortly after the national elections in 1994 he was encouraged to apply for the role of Chief Director of Health in the Free State province. It was not easy to put his career plans on hold, but his vision and sense of responsibility prevailed and he accepted the role, only to assume a second leadership position in healthcare nine years later, this time in the private sector where he spent seven years as Executive Director and Chief Operations Officer for the healthcare group Netcare.
However, he remained dissatisfied with the lack of adequate access to quality healthcare experienced by a large section of the South African population and clung to his dream of making a difference. His opportunity came in 2011, when he was able to create Ditau Health Solutions, an African company developing innovative solutions for African health challenges.
“I was not actively looking to get back into the corporate sphere because I had a vision of private-public partnerships in healthcare systems,” Dr Victor explains. “Healthcare is not made up solely of medical care, but also involves a wider range of facets, from the provision of shelter, running water to sanitation and female health education. I accepted my new role at Bigen because of the good work that the Group has already done in these spheres and in highlighting the differentiators involved in providing quality healthcare on the African continent.”
He has been extensively involved in private-public projects in the healthcare sector on the African continent and these prototypes have operated successfully across the continent.
“I proudly pay my taxes because I know my contribution helps to ensure that a family obtains an RDP house, or an impoverished student is able to complete tertiary studies,” he says. “However, there is so much more that can and must be done to ensure that Africa emerges from under the cloud of poverty and lack of basic living requirements such as healthcare.
“Our role is to ‘do good’ in those communities that are not in a position to uplift themselves. This does not diminish the communities’ and individuals’ own responsibility to ensure that the facilities provided are maintained and respected and that the lives and well-being of those medical and healthcare professionals who work in the townships and rural areas are treated with due courtesy.”