Bold plans to improve health system

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cape Town - Government will continue to improve the country's healthcare system as well as finalise preparations for the establishment of the National Health Insurance system (NHI), says President Jacob Zuma.

Delivering his second State of the Nation Address on Thursday evening, Zuma said the improvement of the healthcare system included the building and upgrading of hospitals and clinics.

This also extends to the improvement of working conditions of health care workers.

Zuma said government has partnered with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) to improve the functionality of public hospitals and their district offices.

Additionally government is also collaborating with the DBSA and the Industrial Development Corporation in a public-private partnership programme to improve hospitals and provide finance for projects.

"Intensive work is underway to ensure that this work is on schedule. We will also continue preparations for the establishment of a national health insurance system," said Zuma.

The broad objective of the NHI is to put in place the necessary funding and health service delivery mechanisms, which will enable the creation of an efficient, equitable and sustainable health system in South Africa based on the principles of the right to health, social solidarity and universal coverage.

Zuma said the nation's life expectancy had dropped from 60 in 1994 to just below 50 years in 2010 and that government was making interventions to lower maternal mortality rates.

"We are therefore making interventions to lower maternal mortality rates, to reduce new HIV infections and to effectively treat HIV and tuberculosis," Zuma told the National Assembly.

Efforts will be made to reduce infant mortality through a massive immunization programme and in addition, health programmes will be reinstated in schools.

"We will implement all the undertakings made on World AIDS Day relating to new HIV prevention and treatment measures," said Zuma.

At the time, he had urged South Africans to take steps to ensure that they do not become infected with HIV, that they do not infect others and that they know their status.

He said patients infected with TB and HIV and AIDS will now receive anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment when their CD4 count is at 350 or less.

At present, treatment is available when one's CD4 count is less than 200. He also announced that TB and HIV and AIDS would be treated under one roof and all pregnant women and children under the age of one will receive treatment.