Remarks by Ambassador Yovanovitch at the “Champion Primary Health Reform Forum”

June 14, 2018

Hello everybody! I want to thank you for providing me with an opportunity to share some thoughts with you today.

Because from the sidelines, it seems there is so much momentum right now for health care reform. And the reason why is obvious: When asked, Ukrainians consistently list health care reform as one of the top priorities for the country. This affects every family, every individual.

And each one of you is at the center of that initiative.

I think that Ukrainians have long understood the system is not benefiting them right now. The challenge, as always–including in my own country–is how one determines the best path forward toward effective reform of the health system that does the best job for its citizens.

Today we believe that Ukraine is finally on the right path, so I want to congratulate you. A primary healthcare system that will provide improved medical services is essential to successful healthcare reform.

However, as we’ve just heard, and as you’ve probably heard earlier in the morning, for health reform to succeed, providers must be willing to embrace change and do things differently, and that is always hard.

Thanks in large part to your readiness to lead, success is now more certain.

Today, you are the champions of this important reform. We applaud your willingness to make brave changes from the outdated and non-transparent ways of financing and managing primary healthcare services, to a new financing system that helps to ensure that every kopek that is spent improves patient-care.

We believe that the financial contracts that you have signed with the National Health Service of Ukraine will result in better care for patients and fair pay for doctors and nurses.

When we originally planned our support for this Champion Primary Healthcare Initiative, we expected only 15 applications. Instead, 149 clinics stepped forward to be Champions, which signals tremendous momentum for health care reform efforts.

I fully appreciate the significant efforts and risks you have taken to be the pioneers laying the foundation of a new patient-centered health system.

It took courage to lead, and you are leaders.

Your courage in representing the first primary care facilities to sign these contracts sets a bright example that others will follow in bringing comprehensive reform to Ukraine.

For health reform to succeed, the public has to trust the system. That means a system free of corruption and the influence of vested interests. It means civil society oversight and government accountability.

And of course, fair pay to family doctors and nurses is as always an important element of an effective and corruption-free health care system.

We applaud the relentless efforts of the Ministry of Health, led by Dr. Ulana Suprun, as well as Deputy Minister Kovtoniuk to establish the National Health Service of Ukraine, a single state strategic purchaser of medical services.

We also applaud the Government of Ukraine for its transparent and fair selection of the new Head of the National Health Service of Ukraine, Dr. Oleh Petrenko.

And we congratulate Dr. Petrenko on this important appointment and look forward to working closely with Dr. Petrenko and his team.

We also urge Ukrainians to choose their local doctors and sign up with a primary healthcare facility. They, too–every single Ukrainian–has a critical role to play to ensure the success of the new system.

And as all of us here urge each of you to ‘run the marathon, not the sprint,’ and to just stick with making these changes. There is going to be uncertainty, there is going to be resistance–it’s going to be hard; but it is so worth it to get those changes in place here for Ukrainian patients.

And as you run this marathon, I want to make sure that each one of you knows that the U.S. government remains committed to providing support to Ukraine to achieve healthcare reform that will improve the lives of Ukrainians. We will be running right there with you.

I think some of you probably know that in May, we launched this five-year USAID Health Reform Support activity, which is partnering with the Government of Ukraine and civil society to enhance transparency, accountability, and effectiveness of the new system.

Ukraine’s reformed health care system is off to a promising start. We look forward to our continued partnership in completing vital reforms in the health sector to provide Ukrainians the health care system they demand and deserve.

So thank you very much for everything that you are doing to make all of this possible.