Johannesburg — SECTION27 and the Treatment Action Campaign welcome the publishing of the final report of the Competition Commission’s Health Market Inquiry (HMI). This has been an important and lengthy process. It is the first holistic and comprehensive look at the private health sector in South Africa.
The HMI was instituted in January 2014 to inquire into the state of competition in the private health sector, with the aim of promoting competition so that users have access to quality and affordable health care services.
The HMI panel has made wide-ranging recommendations that have the potential to effect much needed health sector reforms, particularly as the country moves towards the implementation of universal health coverage through the National Health Insurance (NHI).
We were pleased that the Minister of Trade and Industry and the Deputy Minister of Health both committed to engaging with the findings and recommendations in the light of the NHI proposals, the two are “synergistic” as the Deputy Minister stated today. Indeed, the NHI Fund is likely to purchase goods and services from the private sector and it is therefore imperative that the inefficiencies, weaknesses, perverse incentives and high prices identified in the report are addressed with urgency. This requires a commitment to implementation of the recommendations from government, the sector and other stakeholders.
We welcome the announcement of a special unit within the Competition Commission that will advocate for the implementation of the HMI recommendations and contribute to the debates on NHI and the proposed health system reforms, which will be critical given the rich and detailed information contained in the report and gathered and analysed over the past five years.
“We particularly welcome the Department of Health’s commitment to work with civil society organisations to ensure that patients understand the findings and recommendations in the final report, the links to the NHI proposals and the implications on their access to health care services,” said Sibongile Tshabalala of the Treatment Action Campaign.
We note that the HMI has taken a patient centred approach in its recommendations as we have advocated since the inception of the inquiry. Several speakers at the launch of the report commented that the health sector is no ordinary sector, as health is a fundamental human right that is central to the dignity of every person, to their ability to realise their potential and to participate effectively in society, including through contributing to the country’s GDP as noted by Minister Ebrahim Patel.
“The interventions flowing from the HMI’s findings and recommendations must take cognisance of the constitutional obligation on all state organs to progressively realise the right to access health care services, that are affordable, accessible and of good quality as is required by section 27 of the Constitution”, said Umunyana Rugege, Executive Director of SECTION27.
We look forward to robust engagement with the Department of Health and of Trade and Industry, regulators, private sector stakeholders, and civil society organisations to ensure that the recommendations of this inquiry are implemented to advance access to healthcare services in South Africa.