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360 Bangkok Views

At the start of September, our Fundraising Director, Dr Priti Bhombe, was one of a few invited to attend a two-day workshop in Bangkok, Thailand focused on organisations working in HIV/AIDS related fields. The ‘Regional Workshop on the Incubating Social Enterprises by HIV Service Providers: lessons from the Start-ups’ was hosted by Family Health International (FHI) 360, in collaboration with President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the project Meeting Targets and Maintaining HIV Epidemic Control (EpiC).

Our Caring Friends Hospital and Research Centre (CFHRC) has been working with FHI 360 and USAID, through Sattva Consulting, since August 2022. Sattva’s role was to identify and recruit suitable HIV/AIDS projects and they are now mentoring us to transform our hospital into a social enterprise model. We were one of only six Indian organisations selected and have committed to making our hospital sustainable and financially independent by covering its own operational expenses. There was a rigorous selection process with visits from the Sattva and FHI 360 teams, submission of extensive documents and many calls. Eventually we were selected for the ‘Awards against Milestone’ program, agreeing to deliver on milestones such as creating a business plan, income streams, expanding services including the recruitment of new staff, creating an outreach strategy and introducing hospital management software. The final stage was empanelment with USAID who would provide funding on the successful completion of each milestone.

The program was launched in November 2022, with the appointment of new staff, new business and outreach strategies, new services such as ophthalmology and ENT and the expansion of existing services such as dentistry. There has been a steady rise in income raising around Rs 8 lakh in the first seven months.

Priti joined representatives from Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Laos, USA, Russia, Papua New Guinea, Nepal, Indonesia, Philippines and Myanmar, and was one of three panelist for a discussion on Building Enterprise into Health Services.

Priti says: “It was a very interactive session with a lot of questions about how accepting our patients were of the ‘fee for service model’ having been used to the ‘free for service’ model. How did we decide the prices? Who are our competitors? How will the revenue be used? Why is the cost more for PLHIV patients? I explained how our service is influenced by the lack of treatments available to PLHA in private hospitals yet our pricing offers the same quality of services at lower prices with the revenue covering operational expenses only.”

Other sessions included the role of social enterprises in epidemic control, as well as practical tips on how to develop a social enterprise with experiences shared by successful LGBTQI and HIV community organisations. The organisers also shared the Inclusive Development Policy created by USAID and their expertise and advice for achieving and measuring success.

Our hospital has already achieved many of the milestones agreed by FHI 360 and is reaping the benefits with expanded and diversified medical services resulting in increased patients and awareness. Our expanded outreach work ensures healthier communities in our district with referrals following routine tests such as blood sugar levels and HB count. There is still much work to be completed but we are confident with the available mentoring and support our hospital will continue to grow to serve more patients in need of our specialized care.

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