Rev. Panam Salud Publica. 2014;35(3):207-13
Gianluca Cafagna, Eduardo Missoni, and Rosa Luz Benites de Beingolea
Objective. To identify the main strengths, weaknesses, and challenges of the Ecuador– Peru “peri-border” health care program and to analyze the legislative, managerial, and organizational arrangements adopted to integrate the two country’s national health systems in the border area.
Methods. A descriptive, qualitative case study was carried out using three complementary methods: literature review and analysis of official Peruvian and Ecuadoran national and bina- tional documents, 18 semi-structured interviews of key informants, and a survey of the entire health worker population of the Suyo–Macará binational micro-network.
Results. The key program challenge was the absence of reciprocity; Peruvian citizens were entitled to free health care services in Ecuador but Ecuadoran citizens did not receive the same benefit in Peru. The need for improvements in the binational system’s human resources was also identified. The program’s main strength was its organizational structure, which is designed mainly for the implementation of 1) the binational network and 2) a patient referral / counter-referral system that includes the transfer of patient clinical information. Conclusions. Notwithstanding considerable challenges, peri-border programs are feasible and replicable. Program success seems to be highly dependent on the completion of a number of steps, including 1) consolidation of the original binational memorandum into a binding binational agreement between the two countries; 2) achievement of similar standards in both countries for the provision and quality of health care services, focusing on complementarities; and 3) development of an integrated binational information system.