Hospitals should be able to experiment with paying dividends to investors, the Dutch health service authority NZa said on Tuesday.
The authority is recommending that health minister Ab Klink approves a five-year trial, beginnng in 2010.
‘At the moment, hospitals often don’t have enough assets to invest in quality and innovation,’ the authority said. ‘We see opportunities to attract risk-bearing capital as an important chance to allow hospitals to perform better.’ The authority said the recommendation followed ‘requests from various interest groups within the healthcare sector’.
This is not the first time that the NZa, which is headed up by former minister and free-market Liberal Frank de Grave, has recommended allowing hospitals to make a profit.
However, the issue is extremely sensitive within the current cabinet. Both Christian Democratic (CDA) and Labour (PvdA) ministers are known to have their doubts about the idea. While the PvdA is not in favour of market forces in general, the CDA also sees limits to the idea, the Financieele Dagblad says.
At the moment, most of the Netherlands’ hospitals are foundations and not allowed to pay out profits to third parties.
In order to make sure that hospitals do not sell themselves too cheaply, the NZa recommends setting up careful procedures to assess the value of hospitals both at the beginning and end of the experiment.
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