Phaahla reassures healthcare workers things will improve as NHI becomes law

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, has urged healthcare workers not to be swayed by fearmongers pushing for emigration from South Africa due to the National Health Insurance (NHI).

“Don’t listen to doomsayers and the scaremongers who are telling you that things are going to collapse and [you] must leave now that the President has [signed the Bill], [and you must] find the first flight [out of the country]. Stay here. Things are going to get better.

“This is our only country. We’re going to make sure that what we have achieved in the last 30 years can only get better and not worse,” Phaahla told medical professionals. 

Phaahla was speaking at the signing of the NHI Bill into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Union Buildings on Wednesday. 

READ | President Ramaphosa signs NHI Bill into law

He urged all citizens to collaborate with government and be part of the solutions to achieve a fair, just, and sustainable health system that caters to the health needs of all citizens, regardless of their location or socioeconomic status.

According to the Minister, inequities that characterise South Africa’s health system are unjustifiable and require fundamental overhauling to ensure equity and sustainability. 

“Families have faced agonising decisions, having to choose between necessities and necessary medical care. 

“This reality does not align with the vision we hold for South Africa, where every citizen should enjoy their life to the fullest potential,” said the Minister.

Phaahla described the signing of the Bill as a historic milestone, which paves the way for government to forge ahead with universal health coverage (UHC).



The Minister is of the view that the law was not just a policy but also a promise. 

“This is a promise of a better, healthier future for every South African, affirming that the long wait has indeed been worth it.”

This new law, according to Phaahla, is derived from the National Development Plan (NDP) and will usher in free comprehensive healthcare services at the point of use.

“Thank you very much Mr President for convening us here at the citadel of power [the Union Buildings] in our country after you found the most valued pen in the history of South Africa. I’m sure it’s going to be kept in the museum,” the Minister quipped. 

READ | Somebody give me a pen! - President

Phaahla told the attendees that the vision dates as far back as 1942 under the leadership of ANC President Dr AB Xuma. 

“Even at that time, they already had an outline of the type of NHI that South Africa must adopt. One of the clauses of the document called for ‘the establishment of free medical and health services for all sections of the population’,” he explained. 

He also quoted another clause, which called for a “drastic overhauling of the health services of the country, with an emphasis on preventive medicine”. 

“We are happy that after many years of policy discussions and five years of the NHI Bill in Parliament, the National Health Insurance has now reached the starting line,” he said. 

Phaahla stated that the department will now begin implementation and create mechanisms for the use of resources available to the NHI Fund to meet the health needs of the population.

“We stand resolute and remain committed to realising a health system that ensures our people enjoy healthy and productive lives, spurred on to achieve their full potential in a more equitable South Africa.”

He believes that the signing of the Bill will add impetus to other efforts to close the inequality gap in the country.

Phaahla stated that with the Bill becoming an Act of Parliament, it would facilitate the establishment of crucial institutional and organisational structures of the NHI Fund, along with its governance arrangements.

“However, it is important for the public to note that the provisions of the NHI Act will be implemented in phases. Our intention has always been to have a rational, structured and phased approach implementation.” 

Special Report National Health Insurance: All you need to know

The Constitution empowers the President to set different dates for the effectiveness of various provisions within the Act. 

Meanwhile, President Ramaphosa described the public signing of the NHI Bill into law as a pivotal moment and a milestone in South Africa’s ongoing quest for a more just society.

The Head of State strongly believes that financial hurdles facing the NHI can be navigated with careful planning, strategic resource allocation and a steadfast commitment to achieving equity. 

The President also explained that the NHI Fund will procure services from public and private service providers to ensure all South Africans have access to quality healthcare. –