Administrators at Addis Ababa University (AAU) voiced concern about the implications of the government’s recent decision to make public universities autonomous on the affordability of medical services provided by one of its constituents, Black Lion Hospital, under its medical college.
The federal government deems the move crucial in order to save budget during a period of fiscal austerity, as well as to increase the revenue sources of public universities.
University administrations are concerned about the consequences of the federal government’s decision. Tassew Woldehanna (Prof), president of the AAU, is one of them.
Tassew expressed concern that the anticipated budget cut would make the largest teaching hospital, Black Lion Specialized Hospital, unaffordable to the majority of the poor.
The hospital is a reference hospital that provides free and low-cost services throughout the country under the auspices of the university.
The country’s largest and oldest higher education institution, AAU is expected to become autonomous in the coming months. It has secured about three billion birr for the current Ethiopian fiscal year, which began on July 7, 2022.
Tassew stated in a discussion held this week that the hospital uses roughly half of the university’s annual budget. He voiced concern that the institution will raise the cost of medical services in response to the government’s budget-cutting plan.
“Black Lion Specialized Hospital is an institution that serves the country in emergency situations, including assisting other universities, but it is not entitled to a stable health budget from the Parliament,” Tassew said.
He went on to say that, despite the fact that the hospital uses 85 percent of the capital budget and a greater amount of the operating budget, it delivers cheap and reasonable medical care, adding that public pays very little and views the service to be free.
Tassew argued that the university should be able to receive a block grant in order for the hospital to function effectively and efficiently. If the requested amount is not approved, the hospital will only be accessible to the wealthy and privileged, he said.
In response to Tassew inquiries, Education Minister Birhanu Niga (Prof.) was evasive when replying directly regarding the hospital. He instead claimed that a block grant, a specialized grant, or a research grant is in the works
State Education Minister Samuel Kifle (Ph.D.) acknowledged the completion of block grant regulation, which specifies how university budgets should be formulated.
Public universities, which number close to 50 and are at varying levels of development, will need to restore themselves as autonomous institutions by gradually detaching themselves from government support.
Once the process is launched, universities are given a two-year transition time to be autonomous.