SA, UK to share ideas on NHI

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pretoria - Government will seek the advice of British health experts on the imminent implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI) in South Africa.

The Health Department said in preparing for the implementation of the NHI, health officials are to convene an international consultative workshop this week, to address, among other issues, the quality of care at public health facilities.

The aim of the workshop is to provide an opportunity for policy makers, public health practitioners and other health experts "to apply their collective minds" on the scheme.

The African National Congress confirmed at its National General Council in Durban two weeks ago that the NHI is to be implemented in phases from 2012 over a 14 year period. The scheme is one of the most ambitious health reforms that government will introduce and officials acknowledge preparatory work for the implementation of the NHI requires a comprehensive and systematic approach.

On Sunday, the department said the United Kingdom was "a good example" of a country that has dealt successfully with problems of quality in the healthcare system and whose National Health Service suffered setbacks in the famous Bristol Royal Infirmary case between 1984 and 1995.

South Africa will learn how, from the National Health Service, that country managed to introduce appropriate standards, enhanced safety of patients and promoted public participation.

"We are cognisant of the fact that challenges in the delivery of health services are not unique to South Africa and that many lessons can be learnt from other countries that have experienced similar problems in the past and have turned the corner," the department said.

South Africa is to learn from UK experience of how health services can be delivered "based on principles of honesty and respect, and how we can promote the culture of safety, quality, openness, accountability and collaborative teamwork that can promote responsiveness to a patient's needs".

The meeting will look at several quality priority areas such as infection prevention and control; availability of medicines; reduce waiting times; improve cleanliness; positive and caring attitudes and values and motivation.

The objective is to put in place the necessary funding and health service delivery mechanisms that will enable the creation of an efficient, equitable and sustainable health system in South Africa.

"From previous discussions we have recognised the existence of gaps in our approach to ensuring that this (healthcare) right is achieved. These gaps include, amongst other things, infrastructure backlogs, challenges in implementing quality improvement strategies and accreditation programmes for our health facilities and human resource shortages."

Meanwhile, the country's five major hospitals are to undergo major rehabilitation to prepare them for the NHI. The hospitals which include the Chris Hani Baragwanath, George Mkhari, Limpopo Academic, King Edward in Durban and Nelson Mandela Academic in the Eastern Cape, will be given a new look and in some instances may undergo a complete rebuilding process.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, speaking in Durban last week, said the upgrades will enable public health facilities to conform the required standards as demanded by the NHI.