NHI must socially mobilise SA

Friday, September 2, 2011
Kemantha Govender

Durban - The National Health Insurance (NHI) must be seen as a social mobilisation tool that will also allow South Africa to be innovative and become global competitors.

National Department of Health Director-General Precious Matsoso made the call to delegates during her presentation on the NHI at the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Health Summit.

The three-day summit, attended by stakeholders in health, opened on Friday morning and will look at transforming healthcare beyond 2011.

"We need to look at the NHI with fresh eyes. To me, it is a social call to all of us to change and rebuild our social structure. It must talk to each one of us and we must respond by shouting 'Thuma mina' (send me please)," said Matsoso.

In what she called the first massive consultation meeting on NHI, Matsoso said it was time to rebuild the country's healthcare systems.

"In 50 years' time, we must be able to look back with pride at the achievement we would have made in achieving universal access to health care in the country," she said.

The NHI strives to ensure all South Africans have services that are appropriate, efficient and good quality.

If NHI, which will be implemented in phases over 14 years, is to be successful, all South Africans would need to play a role, said Matsoso. She said she understood concerns raised in the media about the cost implications of implementing NHI.

"This is a fair question, which can only be determined when the pilot is launched," she said.

Matsoso also said government would need to invest in educating people about NHI, something that is yet to be done.

"Maybe we haven't done enough. We need to go out and talk about it in an open and frank manner. We need to start a movement. It can't be a case where only some people in Pretoria are talking about it," she said.

Matsoso explained that in 2010, R200 billion was spent on health in both the private and public sector (R100 billion each). Given that 16.2% of the South African population is covered by the private medical aids, money is not necessarily being spent efficiently in the health sector.

She therefore called for the reconstruction of the health system in a manner where resources can be adequately redirected.

With almost 84% of the population using the public health system, service management in hospitals, under-resourced staff and long queues are some of the issues that need to be addressed as quickly as possible. 

South Africa can learn from other countries, including South Korea, which took 12 years to implement NHI. However, Matsoso said it must structure its programme according the country's needs and in the direction of universal coverage.

She said the Departments of Trade and Industry and Economic Development must also come on aboard and look for opportunities that lie within NHI for innovation opportunities and job creation.

The summit was officially opened by the MEC for Health, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, and included the MEC for Health and Social Development in Mpumalanga Dikeledi Mahlangu, and Olive Shisana of the Ministerial Advisory Committee. KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize will address the delegation later. - BuaNews

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