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Gauteng plan to buy private hospitals for NHI 'vague'

Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi announced, during his State of the Province Address this week, that the province would be buying 18 private hospitals “to be converted” into public hospitals, which would be ready in time for the NHI scheme – but mystery surrounds the plan.

At the same time, Lesufi called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to sign into law the NHI Bill.

“We urge the President to sign the Bill so everyone can have access to a quality health system in our province.

“We are ready to improve our hospitals …. Listen to this: with the assistance of the Workers’ Investment Portfolio, we have just signed an agreement that will see the Gauteng Government buying back 18 private hospitals in our province, and we will convert them into public hospitals so we are ready for the National Health Insurance (scheme).

“This investment with the National Workers’ Fund will go a long way to make sure our health system is improved in our province.”

On Tuesday, addressing the media, he said the provincial government had received a proposal from the “Workers’ Investment Fund” that wanted to invest its “billions” in some of the provincial government’s plans.

“So they made a proposal and said these are the hospitals we are talking to, and we want to buy them and hand them over to the Gauteng Government, and we are excited about that.

“We are concluding those negotiations, and then we will introduce those hospitals. But negotiations have started. We know the names of the hospitals, and this Workers’ Fund will make funding available for this,” said Lesufi.

Meanwhile, at the same press briefing, Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko said part of what the Department of Health was doing was “making sure our infrastructure is ready for the NHI”.

"We are doing renovations in hospitals, we are doing the buying of hospitals which, when we are coming back in the budget speech, we will be coming back with the amounts we have used,” she said.

When News24 contacted Lesufi’s office to establish exactly who would be funding the purchase of the hospitals, the office referred News24 to the Department of Health. However, the department sent News24 back to the Premier’s Office to clarify.

News24 also contacted some of the big workers’ unions to ascertain if they knew anything about buying private hospitals – none of them did.

A union official said that in any case, all workers’ unions had separate investment funds and did not belong to one fund. Therefore, Lesufi would need to clarify precisely to which fund he was referring.

Addressing the media on Tuesday, Lesufi said the purchase of the private hospitals “is exciting for us”.

“It falls within our vision… to get some of the private hospitals that are closer to our services, that we can convert into public hospitals.

“If you go to Tembisa, for example, the MEC will tell you there is a private hospital next door (in which) we have already taken some of the floors there. Some of our surgeries are conducted there and some of the services are there…

“We have a hospital in Eloff Street (in the Johannesburg CBD); it is a private hospital we have already taken over. So, what we are saying is not new. There are private hospitals that we are starting to make part of our public hospital portfolio.”

The province was also working with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, another private facility, he added.

However, Jack Bloom, the DA’s spokesperson for health in Gauteng, questioned what the workers would gain from buying hospitals for the province.

“Lesufi was vague. Eighteen hospitals is a lot. What giveaway will the Gauteng Health Department give to workers?" he asked.

He said there were more questions than answers to Lesufi’s announcement, which he thought was “fishy”.

“The NHI will be tied up in court. There’s no budget. There are huge questions about it.”

 

News24 article – Lesufi says 18 private hospitals will be bought for NHI – but who exactly will fund them? (Restricted access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

ANC blind to the facts in its stubborn adherence to NHI gospel

 

SAHRC to probe hundreds of complaints about public hospitals

 

NHI a complex process as part of wider plan to reform health sector – Crisp

 

Doctors invest in new private hospital in Gauteng

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