Thursday, 11 August, 2022
HomeNews UpdateGovernment slashes already under-funded health budget

Government slashes already under-funded health budget

South Africans using state health facilities should gird their loins for the government’s planned and extensive cuts to public health budgets, Wits adjunct professor Michael Sachs warned delegates at the annual Hospital Association of SA (HASA) conference on Monday. This comes as the wage bill for health workers is slashed and thousands of unfilled vacancies are likely to remain unfilled.

Sachs said because the economy was under-performing, “we are looking at significant resource constraints in the very period when the system is recovering from COVID”, reports Business Day.

The government will be instituting the biggest fiscal shock to the public health system in 25 years, designed as a reduction in the salaries of healthcare workers, he said, referring to major expenditure cuts announced by the Treasury in the February budget.

Consolidated government health expenditure will rise by just 0.2% in nominal terms over the medium term, which in February represented a 4.4% cut in real terms as the Treasury projected at that stage that inflation would average 4.6% over the period.

The health budget rose from a revised estimate of R256bn in 2021/2022 to R259bn in 2022/2023 but is projected to fall to R248bn in 2023/2024 before rising to R257bn in the outer year. The wage bill for health personnel will grow at only 1.1.% over the medium term, putting a damper on provincial health departments’ hopes of employing more front-line staff, or even replacing those who died from COVID-19.

Almost 1,500 SA healthcare workers died from the pandemic, while those who remained are struggling with trauma and burnout.

And while the health department recently announced it would stop reporting daily COVID-19 figures, SA is still in the grip of the pandemic’s effects. COVID-19 had not only led to extensive surgical backlogs, as elective procedures were delayed when cases surged, but the virus raised the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, increasing the future burden on the healthcare system.

Business Unity SA CEO Cas Coovadia said the private sector had demonstrated its willingness and capacity to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and could do the same again to improve the public healthcare system.

The private sector formed an organisation called Business for SA (B4SA) at the outset of the pandemic to support the government’s response to the crisis, playing a vital role in procuring personal protective equipment and in the vaccine roll-out, with senior figures providing their expertise pro bono.

 

Business Day PressReader article – Public health budget cut as demand soars (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

South Africa’s health sector in the 2022 budget

 

Exodus of doctors, nurses pushes up healthcare costs, says expert

 

R1,2bn shortfall in Gauteng hospital maintenance budget, HRC hears

 

 

 

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