“The Bill has arrived at my desk. I’m going through the Bill. I’m looking for a pen!" - said President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday night, eliciting much laughter from a packed Joint Sitting of Parliament.
Delivering his State of the Nation Address (SONA) President Ramaphosa announced that government will gradually implement the long-awaited National Health Insurance (NHI).
President Ramaphosa was speaking during a televised speech at the Cape Town City Hall.
The NHI Bill, which was passed by both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) last year, will provide free healthcare at the point of care for all South Africans, whether in public or private health facilities.
“We plan to incrementally implement the NHI, dealing with issues like health system financing, the health workforce, medical products, vaccines and technologies, and health information systems.”
The Bill now only requires President Ramaphosa’s signature for enactment.
President Ramaphosa said the State is working tirelessly to improve both healthcare quality and access equality, despite the country’s health system having a significant impact on people’s lives.
In addition, he said South Africans are living longer than ever before. Life expectancy has increased from 54 in 2003 to 65 years in 2023.
“The World Health Organisation [Director-General] says it is a phenomenal development,” he said.
Meanwhile, the country’s maternal and infant deaths have declined dramatically.
“We have built more hospitals and clinics, especially in poor areas, providing better quality care to more South Africans.”
He touched on the Limpopo Academic Hospital in Polokwane, which is currently under construction.
The hospital promises to be a state-of-the-art establishment and will be one of the five flagship academic health institutions around the country.
Equipped with advanced medical technology, the hospital will offer cutting-edge diagnostic procedures and innovative treatments.
“I had anecdotally a good representation of how our healthcare system has been improving. When the ANC held its birthday anniversary there was an accident where five people passed away and scores were injured and were taken to hospitals in Mpumalanga and Limpopo. I went to see some of them and when they were asked: ‘Don’t you want to be moved to private hospitals?”… Many of them said: ‘No, we’re well looked after here’.”
He also cited the sixth South African HIV Prevalence, Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey results, which found that 95% of people diagnosed with HIV know their status, 79% of those receive antiretroviral treatment, and 93% of those are virally suppressed.
“New HIV infections among young people have declined significantly.”
The President’s speech touched on the state of South Africa and reflected on a wide range of political, economic and social matters.
The address will be followed by a two-day debate by Members of Parliament and the President will thereafter reply to issues raised in the debates. – SAnews.gov.za