Filling a Critical Health-Care Gap in Brazil

Alliar’s Command Center enables technicians to operate scanners remotely © Alliar

For 18 months, Adeni Almeida wavered between hope and despair.

In 2015, her doctor told her that the lumps she discovered in her breast were potentially cancerous—a stereotactic biopsy was necessary to rule out that possibility.That posed a problem for Almeida: local public hospitals in Salvador in the Brazilian state of Bahia lacked the necessary equipment, and the cost at private institutions was prohibitive for her. Surgery was an option—but there was a long waiting line for that.

“I felt abandoned,” said Almeida, who is 57.

In mid-2016, the outlook suddenly brightened. Alliar, an IFC client that is one of the largest diagnostic imaging companies in Brazil, set up a new center at the State Center of Oncology, a public hospital in Salvador.The special biopsy Almeida needed was now available to her, and it was covered by her public insurance. She scheduled an appointment in May—the biopsy results showed the lumps were not cancerous.

“I won my life back,” she says.

Adeni Almeida waited 18 months for a biopsy © Alliar

Across the world, 70 percent of cancer deaths occur in developing countries such as Brazil. But health systems in these countries often struggle to meet basic health care needs and lack the resources for sophisticated care required to treat cancer and other increasingly common diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Private service providers can help close the gap.

At IFC, we know that expanding access to high-quality and affordable health care is critical to ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Four years ago, we supported Alliar’s expansion with a $50 million loan. The company’s growth helped expand access to its diagnostic and laboratory services to 4.3 million patients—most of them women. The expansion also helped create more jobs: the company now employs 5,200 people, three-quarters of whom are women.

Alliar established the new diagnostic imaging center under a public-private partnership—the first such center under PPP in Brazil. The arrangement allows Alliar to provide diagnostic services to low-income patients through the country’s universal healthcare system.

A year into the PPP, Alliar has conducted more than 180,000 tests for Brazil’s network of public hospitals. Once fully implemented, the company is expected to serve about 6 million patients in Bahia who are on the government healthcare system over the 11-year period of the contract.

When hospitals acquire more diagnostic equipment, they can reduce the wait times for patients. For instance, patients awaiting gall-bladder surgery would typically occupy beds for about 35 days, awaiting diagnostic tests. With imaging services in hospital premises, patients remain for just five days.

Almeida said she immediately noticed improvements at her hospital. “For several months now, things have evolved,” she said. “The equipment is better, the tests are fast. I felt real changes in patient care. It is wonderful.”

Read more about how Alliar addressed rising demand for health-care diagnostic services in underserved areas of Brazil.

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Published in August 2016


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