The Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, is leading a Parliamentary delegation to the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF) 46th Plenary Assembly Session in Swakopmund, Namibia.
The session, which started on 11 December 2019, is held under the theme "Harnessing the power of Parliaments to expand Universal Health Coverage". It will conclude on 16 December.
Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is broadly aimed at ensuring that all people receive the health services they need, including health initiatives designed to promote better health and prevent illness.
It also aims to provide treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care of sufficient quality, while at the same time ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardships.
Lack of access to health care continues to be a major concern in many parts of the world. Barriers to access take a variety of forms, the most obvious being the fundamental lack of quality health services. However, there are also obstacles such as distance to the nearest health facility, restricted opening hours at facilities and overcrowded facilities that result in long waiting times.
The programme of the session will include a colloquium of speakers from national Parliaments, a women's roundtable on gender parity in the SADC region, a meeting of the executive committee and other committees, and a symposium on the plenary assembly.
Universal quality health care
Meanwhile, the South African Parliament is hard at work to produce legislation that will enable the country's progressive realisation of universal access to quality health care for all, as a fundamental human right.
Through the Portfolio Committee on Health, Parliament is undertaking a national programme to consult people and organisations on the draft National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill, which was published in the Government Gazette and numerous websites in July 2019.
Parliament is committed to execute its constitutional mandate of promoting citizens' meaningful involvement and participation in law making and exercising oversight over the executive.
So far five provinces, including KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape, have been visited to engage various citizens on the NHI Bill.