Private hospitals and clinics in Cape Town found themselves dealing with a different kind of client recently when sickly and poor patients arrived to demonstrate their frustration with the slow progress in implementing National Health Insurance (NHI). Under the banner of the Movement for Change and Social Justice – a grassroots organisation from Gugulethu that campaigns for better healthcare services in townships, the Sowetan reports patients arrived at establishments including Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Pinelands, Netcare Christiaan Barnard Hospital in the city centre, Crescent Clinic in Kenilworth and various Melomed hospitals.
The report says the organisation, which is supported by social health lobby groups such as Health Enabled and the Public Health Movement, demanded that NHI be implemented quickly and wanted clarity on how the state intends to implement universal free healthcare.
Mandla Majola, who led the group and took a depression patient to Crescent Clinic, decried the public healthcare system. State clinics in the townships were overcrowded, he said, and the government had failed to build new healthcare facilities. As a result, patients were often forced to sleep on chairs or on the floor owing to bed shortages. Due to high patient numbers, trauma patients were often treated while sitting in chairs because there were not enough beds.
The report says speaking to Crescent Clinic manager Zandre Finkelstein, Majola said the protest was a “peaceful demonstration” of poor people’s plight and was not an attack on private hospitals.
Finkelstein said the healthcare system was broken at the medical aid level because of the need to make profits, adding that the clinic had admitted patients who needed emergency care before they were transferred to public hospitals.
Peter Benjamin, CEO of HealthEnabled – which helps government integrate life-saving digital health interventions into their health systems – said it was “unjust” that only 16% of South Africans had access to good, quality healthcare.Sowetan report