South Africa: Implementing NHI Comes With Benefits for SA

President Cyril Ramaphosa says implementing the National Health Insurance (NHI) while improving the health system has several benefits.

The President said this when he fielded oral questions in the National Assembly on Thursday.

"The NHI will increase the resources available to hire more health workers, thus reducing waiting times at clinics and hospitals.

"Contracting health professionals from the private sector into NHI will increase access to the services of doctors, specialists, dentists, physiotherapists, psychologists and others.

"Through the more efficient allocation of health resources, NHI will improve access to medicines and equipment, reduce drug stock-outs and improve maintenance of facilities," he said.

He was responding to a question from Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo - a former MEC for Health in KwaZulu-Natal and now the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Health - who had asked about the country's readiness to implement the NHI and the benefits that the scheme would bring.

The President said the NHI Fund will separate the purchase of health services from the delivery of services, thereby increasing value for money.

He said this will help to ensure that funds, staff, medicine and equipment are more fairly distributed.

"It will further enhance the quality of services delivered because all those who receive contracts must be able to provide services of a specified quality.

"It will help improve efficiency, transparency and accountability.

"As we have done before with all major policy interventions since 1994, we will ensure effective consultation and engagement across society at all stages of this process."

President Ramaphosa said the quest for universal health coverage is probably one of the most significant public-private partnerships that government will undertake, and it is essential that all social partners are involved in its design and implementation.

He said the NHI will be implemented incrementally and within available resources.

"The NHI provides an opportunity to fundamentally transform health care in this country to ensure greater fairness, improved health outcomes and a more productive workforce.

"Through the NHI, we will be closer to achieving the demand of the Freedom Charter that 'Free medical care and hospitalisation shall be provided for all'."

Government won't sit idle while SA is faced with health care inequalities

The President said once passed into law, the NHI Bill will go a long way towards achieving universal quality health coverage.

South Africa is confronting severe inequality, where around R250 billion is spent on the 16% of the population who have access to private health care, while only R220 billion goes towards health care for the rest of the population.

"There are those who say we must leave things as they are.

"We are called upon to retain an unjust system that deprives the majority of South Africans access to the doctors, specialists and allied health professionals that are supposed to serve only a few to the exclusion of the rest.

"To this we say 'No'. This is unfair, inefficient and unsustainable," President Ramaphosa said.

He said the country has enough resources to give every man, woman and child health care, "but we refuse because we want to promote the interests of a few to the detriment of the rest".

"We shall change this."

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