|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
Mongolia's economic outlook is bright, but the country is experiencing severe shortages in the provision of social services despite increasing budgetary resources. There is inadequate capacity to implement reforms to improve accessibility and service quality of hospital services. Poorer segments of the population have limited access to private hospitals due to high cost of care and limited health insurance coverage. At the same time, international support to the health sector is shrinking. The cost of reforming the hospital sector in Ulaanbaatar alone is estimated at $450 million. Patients' and health workers' safety is currently compromised by lapses in hospital hygiene, blood transfusion practices, and medical waste management in the public and private sector.
The government seeks to strengthen blood safety in hospitals and improve preparedness for emergencies in case of natural disasters. Deficiencies in aimag (province) blood banks impact on patients' and health workers' safety. Inadequate facilities, equipment, and testing materials; inadequate capacity of personnel involved in blood safety; lack of confidentiality; poor registration and reporting of adverse reactions; lack of readiness for emergencies; and lack of measures to reduce inappropriate blood transfusions are among the major deficiencies, which can result in unintentional transmission of HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B and C.
Efforts are underway in Ulaanbaatar and in medium-sized cities such as Darkhan and Erdenet to improve hospital medical waste treatment and disposal, but the situation in the aimags is far from ideal. There is inadequate management of liquid hazardous waste produced by hospitals and laboratories. Liquid hazardous waste when poorly disposed causes harm to people and the environment, as it contains chemical substances, drugs, and pathogens. Hospital sewerage systems are not always of good quality, resulting in environmental and public health risks.
Infection control in Mongolian health care facilities is poor and hospital acquired infections are thought to be underreported. In March 2010, Mongolia experienced 28 hospital acquired infections among newborns, of whom five died, as a result of poor infection control clinical practices. Prevalence of hepatitis B and C of health care workers in Mongolia is among the highest in the world and points to breaches in health care safety. Sterilization facilities and practices in hospitals are poor, and basic hygiene measures, such as hand washing, are not commonly implemented. The surveillance system currently implemented in hospitals consists of passive reporting of hospital acquired infections. Several aspects prevent the current passive surveillance system in hospitals from being effective: (i) the disincentive associated with reporting of hospital acquired infections cases; (ii) the widespread preventive use of antibiotics for surgery and other procedures, including for newborn babies; and (iii) the lack of microbiology capacity to detect infections and sensitivity to treatment.
The government has established a legal and regulatory framework to address the above shortcomings. But it lacks investment funding; financing of operational costs; and human resources capacity to implement regulatory measures, guidelines, and plans. Several international partners are supporting the government in these areas but there are still significant gaps, primarily investments, development of monitoring and surveillance systems, and institutional and human resources capacity development. Private investors are entering the hospital market intending to offer higher standards of care for more affluent patients. Public hospitals (with a greater bed capacity) lag behind and remain a serious threat to patient and health workers' safety. This perpetuates discrimination between poorer and more affluent population groups. A central facility for the treatment and disposal of medical wastes was established as a public-private partnership in Ulaanbaatar in 2007 and has been operational since 2010. This initiative, although requiring major investments, represents a solid foundation for improved medical waste management in the capital where almost half of the Mongolian population lives. Ulaanbaatar's National Transfusiology Center (NTC), which provides blood transfusion services of acceptable quality, can play an important role in capacity development and monitoring of hospital transfusion activities in Ulaanbaatar and in the aimags.
The project builds on hospital sector reforms initiated under previous ADB-funded operations in Mongolia, including the Fourth Health Sector Development Project to strengthen hospital services. ADB sector recommendations emphasize the need for structural changes in health care delivery by rationalizing excess hospital capacity at the secondary and tertiary levels, particularly in Ulaanbaatar. The Fourth Health Sector Development Project is engaged in reforming the hospital sector but hospital rationalization needs to be complemented with increased quality and safety of hospital services to provide effective care and lower resistance to sector reforms. The project will deliver tangible benefits to women by ensuring higher safety standards to protect staff, the majority of whom are women, against hospital acquired infections and improving safety of blood transfusions in hospitals.
ADB is the largest external financier of the health sector in Mongolia, and plays a key role in assisting the government to formulate and implement health sector reforms. Support from other partners tends to focus on assisting the government to address particular diseases or develop certain programs. ADB works in close consultation with these partners to support the coordinated implementation of the Health Sector Master Plan (2006-2015). The World Health Organization, with global expertise in all three focus areas of the project, will assist the project mainly by providing consulting services. The German Federal Ministry of Health, which is supporting a small scale hospital hygiene project in Mongolia, will support the project by providing advisory services for policy development, monitoring and evaluation, and training activities in Mongolia and Germany.
The project builds on previous ADB health sector development initiatives and policy reforms under the Social Sectors Support Program to continue reforming the Mongolian health sector in line with (i) the National Development Strategy in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), MDG 4 (Child Health) and MDG 5 (Maternal Health), and more directly MDG 6 (HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis), and MDG 7 (environmental health and sanitation); and (ii) the government's Health Sector Master Plan (2006-2015) for improving hospital services. The project is included in the country operations business plan (2012-2014) and is consistent with the current country partnership strategy (2012-2016), which emphasizes social development through efficient delivery of health services.