According to the parliamentary portfolio committee on health, the National Health Insurance scheme is Dr Zweli Mkhize’s “silver bullet” to ensure that rich and poor have equal access to healthcare.
The Parliamentary Communication Services has announced that the Portfolio Committee on Health has een briefed by the Health Department on its annual performance plan and budget for the 2019/20 financial year. The committee said South Africa is known as one of the most unequal countries in the world and the health sector contributes to this perception. The committee indicated that the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has the “silver bullet” to change all that, by ensuring that rich and poor have equal access to healthcare.
Responding to questions, the minister assured the committee that the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill is on its way to becoming a reality.
The committee asked about departmental monitoring mechanisms over the money that is allocated and transferred by the department to the provinces as conditional grants, so that such funds are used effectively to improve the patient experience. In addition, the committee questioned the monitoring of non-governmental organisations that receive funding from the department. Some committee members suggested that these organisations should be invited to appear before the committee.
In its report, the department informed the committee that it has early warning systems in place for medical stock-outs, implemented in partnership with users. Some members of the committee expressed a different view that in some healthcare facilities, patients are sent away without medicine, due to shortage of stock. The committee wanted know how the department is ensuring that this is avoided.
The committee asked about the current oncology backlog and the efforts to combat this challenge, taking into consideration issues in the public domain about Addington Hospital.
In its comments, the committee suggested the digitisation of the health sector to deal with various challenges facing the department.
The committee welcomed the department’s announcement that it will present the Traditional Practitioners Bill, as this community has been marginalised.
But Democratic Alliance (DA) MP and spokesperson on health Siviwe Gwarube does not view the NHI as a “silver bullet”. News24 reports that after the meeting she pointed out that a report on the feasibility of the NHI pilot projects had never been made public.
According to Gwarube, Mkhize did not care about the outcomes of the report or the cost of the project. “This attitude by Minister Mkhize indicates that the ANC government is prepared to proceed with the disastrous NHI, despite the impact it will have on the economy and on the health system as a whole,” she said.
“The road to universal healthcare is not limited to this problematic piece of legislation. More concerningly is the establishment of yet another state-owned-enterprise which will open up the public purse to looting by the politically-connected few.”
She is quoted in the report as saying that the ANC government seemed determined to nationalise healthcare, “which will be the final nail in the coffin of an ailing health system”.
She said the DA had long held the view that universal healthcare was possible, but that the NHI, as proposed by the ANC government, was too expensive and not feasible.
“The ANC forcing through the NHI will not go uncontested, the DA will fight this and propose a credible plan that will ensure that every South African has access to proper and quality public healthcare,” Gwarube said.