Primary health care gets priority

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Johannesburg - The Department of Health has recommitted itself to the primary health care level as the foundation of the country's national health system.

The commitment was made during a meeting between the national health leadership, including international experts from more than eight different countries, who have experience in dealing with many of the major health policy challenges also facing South Africa.

During the three-day intensive deliberations, which ended today, experts including provincial MECs developed a shared vision and collective purpose on how the leadership will drive the country's priority health agenda for the next five years.

These priorities include the 2009-2014 Ten Point Plan.

Speaking after the meeting, Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, noted that while government was making progress on national macro-policy priorities such as the National Health Insurance (NHI), it must show immediate and evident improvement in quality and efficiency, particularly at primary health care level.

"We also recognised that clinics and other health facilities operate as part of a broad national health management system and therefore increasing the health management overall is imperative," Dr Motsoaldi said on Tuesday.

The leadership also recognised the priorities of the NHI and full implementation of the National HIV and AIDS Plan.

Dr Motsoaledi said the leadership was determined that the yardstick against which their plans and progress should be measured is expenditure control, equity and efficiency.

"These elements need to inform both our planning and monitoring so that we might achieve optimal outcomes in terms of overall efficiency of the health system and our success against the major health indicators such as mortality and maternal mortality," he said.

Dr Alan Maynard from the University of New York's Department of Health said solidarity was essential in a humane society, warning that if health inequalities persist as the major determinant of health, it was not health care.

Sharing the country's experience since the implementation of the NHI four years ago, Dr Frank Nyonator from Ghana Health Service said the NHI system was still young and subject to many pressures including financial and political.

"It is a good time to sit down and undertake an inclusive review, looking at what it [NHI] can offer to Ghana and to the health systems in particular," Nyonator said.