10-point plan to improve health system in SA

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pretoria - Government has developed a 10-point programme to guide the country in improving the healthcare system in South Africa, says Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga.

"This 10 point programme will serve as a road map and our guardian angel towards improving the overall healthcare system and increasing access to health care while fighting the burden of disease that confronts us," said the minister.

She was speaking at the Human Development Cluster Media Briefing in Cape Town on Tuesday.

The programme includes an overhaul of the healthcare system and improving its management; improving the quality of healthcare; human resource planning, development and management; infrastructure revitalization as well as the National Health Insurance.

"Point three of the 10-point programme is about improving the quality of healthcare services. In this case, a unit has been set up in the department which will focus on five major issues to improve the quality of care.

"These are the safety and security of patients; cleanliness of our institutions and infection control; attitudes of staff as experienced by patients; time taken in queues either before seeing a health worker or receiving medication and the availability of drugs."

The minister said these five basic measures would be used as a yardstick to assess, monitor and evaluate progress in the country's institutions.

The overhauling of the healthcare system and improving its management is point four of the programme.

Motshekga said government believed that the whole healthcare system, from primary through tertiary services right up to quaternary services, would need a complete overhaul. This included the National Health Insurance.

"This whole system clearly needs an overhaul. In overhauling the healthcare system, we are also going to focus on the management of our institutions especially at the coalface of delivery which is at the districts, hospital and clinic level."

She said the Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi would be meeting all the Chief Executive Officers, Clinical Managers, Nursing Managers as well as district managers to outline the programme.

The Health Minister is expected to address four major areas of weaknesses in the system when he meets with the healthcare workers, including financial management, infrastructure and maintenance of facilities, human resource management and information and communication technology.

"These four [areas] are not only a problem at our districts and institutions, but they cut across the whole spectrum, including provinces and national and hence the overhauling will have to take place across the spectrum," said Motshekga.

Point five in the 10-point plan speaks about human resource planning, development and management. Government is aware of the shortages of healthcare workers in the country and therefore three issues are included in this point.

They are the whole spectrum of the training of nurses including the return of private healthcare nurses including clinic mid-wives; the intake and training of medical students in universities and the training of mid-level health workers including task-shifting within institutions.

Government has embarked on a process to reopen nursing colleges.

"Regarding point 6, which talks about the infrastructure revitalisation, we wish to remind you that the President instructed during his State of the Nation Address that as a preparation for the National Health Insurance, the Treasury and Department of Health need to go on massive Public and Private Partnerships in order to have improved healthcare infrastructure," explained the minister.

Point 9 talks about the review of South Africa's drug policy. "We are concentrating urgently on the whole procurement system. At the moment our main focus is on the procurement of anti-retroviral treatment," said Motshekga.

She added that the various points in the 10-point plan worked hand in hand.

"None of them on their own will be able to change the healthcare system in any meaningful way outside the others. They are mutually inclusive. We will once more emphasise that we will implement them together and not necessarily individually one after the other."