Health budget to exceed R492bn over three years

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cape Town - Government spending on health is expected to exceed R492 billion over the next three years, as part of a plan to strengthen the health system, in preparation for the implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.

Over R19 billion has been earmarked for refurbishing clinics and hospitals.

Budget documents show that national health spending will grow at a higher rate over the next few years in line with the National Development Plan’s vision of a cheaper health sector that works for everyone.

In his fifth Budget Speech on Wednesday, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, said the Department of Health’s white paper on the NHI and a financing paper by the National Treasury have been completed and were expected to be tabled at Cabinet shortly. 

The roll-out of the NHI is currently being financed by two conditional grants, the nationally managed national health grant and the national health insurance grant, managed by provinces. 

More than R221 million will be made available in the 2014 budget for the national health insurance grant to strengthen district health structures.

Minister Gordhan said in addition to hospital and clinic building and refurbishment programmes, about R1.2 billion has been set aside for doctor’s contracts.

More than R300 million will go towards the establishment of an office of Health Standards Compliance. The office will serve as an independent public entity responsible for inspecting health facilities.

About R600 million has been budgeted for the introduction of the new Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine which prevents cancer of the cervix. The roll out of the vaccine will begin in schools across the country next month, for Grade 4 learners.

Minister Gordhan said improvements in South Africa’s health system over the past five years were reflected in the rising life expectancy, the reduction in infant, child and maternal mortality as well as the increased access to HIV treatment.

“Over the period ahead, enrolment in the HIV treatment programme will expand by 500 000 a year”.

The increase in the number of new patients for ARVs will require an addition R1 billion to the health budget. Currently 2.5 million people are under treatment, said the minister.

Since 2009, government has lowered the child mortality rate by reducing mother-to-child HIV transmission from 3.5% to 2.5%.  A campaign to increase the number of medical male circumcisions and HIV testing has also reduced the adult mortality rate. –