Public, private health sector pledge support for NHI

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sandton - Health stakeholders from the private and public sector have pledged their support for the National Health Insurance (NHI), although some are still concerned about how the scheme will be implemented.

This emerged during the inaugural Health Leadership Dialogue Series, where Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi addressed key influential policy and opinion makers in both government and the private sector.

The inaugural dialogue, themed 'Towards a Common National Strategic Agenda for Health in South Africa,' was held under the auspices of the African Institute of Health and Leadership, and comes a few days after Motsoaledi announced the 10 districts identified to pilot the NHI.

He reiterated that in order for the NHI to be effective, the quality of care had to change in public health care, as well as the pricing in private health care.

"... We have to look at the pricing ... in the private health sector. It needs to be regulated," Motsoaledi said.

He said the country's reference point for the health scheme hinged on the Alma Ata, a declaration that was adopted at the International Conference on Primary Health Care in 1978. It expressed the need for urgent action by all governments, all health and development workers, and the world community to protect and promote the health of all the people of the world. It was the first international declaration underlining the importance of primary health care.

Motsoaledi underscored the importance of South Africa and the continent working together with the rest of the world to improve health care, and said the NHI was the appropriate tool to achieve that goal.

African Institute of Health and Leadership Development Executive Director, Dr Percy Mahlathi, said the country had great potential for NHI but acknowledged that health institutions still had a long way to go.

"The national health system has several components - public, private and non-governmental sectors, which ideally should complement one another in the quest to assist in ensuring the progressive realisation of citizens' rights, especially as far as health is concerned.

"The performance of the national health system is the sum total of the performance of all its components and depends on the ability of its leadership to rally their troops to action so that South Africa can truly have appropriate, unfettered access to good quality health services," said Mahlathi.

Dr Nkaki Matlala, from the Hospital Association of South Africa, said only collaboration could propel health care to the level envisaged in the NHI.

"We can't walk apart. The state can be collaborative, engage citizenry, and share responsibility for policy outcomes. We consider ourselves part of the process. NHI is the most progressive thing, but needs to be relevant to our country," Matlala said.

Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa Secretary, Thembeka Gwagwa, said: "We support NHI and are prepared to go all out to ensure that people support it. We will be going to all districts identified for the pilot and look at the infrastructure and human resources to see what needs to be addressed."