Minister Motsoaledi on SA's health system and freedom

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

By More Matshediso

Pretoria - Having one seamless health department is what Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi believes would mean freedom to him and the millions of citizens who depend on the country’s health system.

As South Africa commemorates Freedom Day every year on 27 April, and regards the whole of April as Freedom month, SAnews spoke to Minister Motsoaledi about what freedom day means to him and the health system in general.

On 27 April 1994, South Africa held its first democratic elections which gave birth to freedom and the country’s constitutional democracy. The elections made it possible to embark on a journey to build a country that belongs to all who live in it.

We meet the Minister at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital, a hospital that happens to be named after one of South Africa’s foremost activists who fought for the country’s freedom.

The Minister cannot contain his excitement as the hospital he normally checks in at for medical check-ups had just received a donation worth more than R1 million from the Chinese government. We ask him what freedom day means to him.

“Freedom day to me means that we have started a journey to have one prosperous, non-sexist, democratic, non-racial South Africa. Freedom day was the beginning of that journey.

“Attaining freedom on 27 April 1994 was the first phase of the transition. The second phase of the transition is to look at the economy and equality, and that is why government is always talking about radical economic transformation or inclusive growth, as the current economy of the country does not include everybody,” says Minister Motsoaledi.

He says there is no way that South Africa would achieve economic freedom without first attaining political freedom.

Motsoaledi says being at the hospital that was only providing services to white people during the apartheid times is also a sign of freedom, because Steve Biko Academic Hospital today serves everybody regardless of race.

“It is one of the best hospitals that the government can offer to South African citizens. These are the fruits of democracy,” he says.

“The greatest achievement which people tend to ignore is that, before democracy, there were about 14 different departments of health with 14 ministers of health in this country, with different standards. The lowest standards were meant for African people in the homelands.

“One of the things that we have achieved is to have only one health department. The problem we are still solving is the fragmentation into public and private hospitals, which is wrong because it is fragmented along income—those who are poor must go to public hospitals and those who are rich must go to private hospitals,” says Minister Motsoaledi.

Zooming into the future of the health sector as South Africa’s democracy matures, he believes that the National Health Insurance (NHI) is going to bring the fragmentation to an end.

Minister Motsoaledi says the main plan, which will be one of the greatest achievements if implemented, is for South Africa to have one seamless department of health.

“The biggest fruits of democracy will be ensuring that South Africa establishes one seamless health financing system where we pull funds together for all South Africans, irrespective of their socio-economic status in what we call the NHI, for them to have access to good quality healthcare services, which is not provided according to your status or income.

“That is our biggest dream, and we know that we are sharing that dream with the rest of the world. If we do not achieve that, we can never claim that we have achieved full freedom,” says Minister

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