President Cyril Ramaphosa says government is forging ahead with the National Health Insurance (NHI) that will enable the country to ensure every citizen receives quality health services, correct diagnosis and free treatment at the point of care.
“Such a healthcare system should be adequately staffed with well-trained and motivated healthcare professionals supported by effective management and leadership,” President Ramaphosa said on Friday.
The President was speaking at the second Presidential Health Summit at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg.
The summit is a platform to review the implementation of the interventions agreed to during the 2018 summit, assess the performance of the health system against the Health Compact, and evaluate the readiness to implement NHI.
To achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC), the First Citizen, told delegates that government must prioritise several key areas, including funding.
“Resources will need to be pooled to provide access to quality healthcare for all, starting with government funding health services that have experienced a massive budget reduction in the past few years.
“We will also need to mobilise resources to address perennial problems such as HIV, TB and other non-communicable diseases.”
Even though South Africa was negatively affected by COVID-19, the President believes the health systems have proven to be remarkably “resilient”.
He acknowledged that the pandemic disrupted the implementation of the nine pillars of the Presidential Health Compact, which lays a foundation for a five-year roadmap for health systems strengthening reforms towards accelerating UHC.
“But work did not grind to a halt. On the contrary, it continued despite the difficult terrain we were navigating at the time.
“We were also fortunate in that we put the legislative wheels for NHI in motion before the pandemic struck.”
He announced that the NHI Bill, which was introduced in Parliament in 2019, is expected to be debated in the National Assembly by June 2023 and then considered in the National Council of Provinces.
Meanwhile, he said achieving UHC, falls under United Nation’s Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.
The aim, he said, is to ensure that everyone can access quality health services without incurring financial hardship, promote health equity, and reduce health disparities.
He believes it will also provide essential health services to all individuals, regardless of their socio-economic status or geographic location.
“To achieve this, health systems need to be strengthened, health coverage needs to be expanded, and out-of-pocket expenses for health services need to be reduced.”
He said government cannot do it alone and will rely on collaboration between the state, civil society organisations, the private sector, and other stakeholders.
The President raised concerns about the disparities between public and private healthcare, which continue to increase.
“Moreover, despite efforts to integrate health departments, quality of healthcare is still largely influenced by where you live.”
However, he said NHI aims to provide access to quality healthcare services to all South Africans, regardless of their socio-economic status or geographical location.
“It aims to reduce health disparities between different population groups and regions of the country and to protect individuals and families from the financial burden of healthcare expenses.
He also called on strong governance and leadership by the Department of Health to ensure that the entire health system, public and private, is well-managed, transparent, and accountable to the public.
Meanwhile, he said government will invest more in training programmes for healthcare professionals and increase staffing levels to meet the population’s needs and ensure essential medicines and medical devices are available.
He said the highly publicised situation at Tembisa Hospital and many such examples in various provinces are unacceptable.
“We must protect whistleblowers to ensure we can root out corruption that has become endemic in our health system.”
He hopes this year’s United Nations General Assembly in September will be an opportune time to share with the world the progress we have made since 2019 towards NHI.
“We have been able to learn from the experiences of others as well as adopt best practices in implementing UHC policies and programmes.
“Our goal as South Africa is to create a healthcare system that is the world’s envy; that is accessible, efficient, and effective in meeting the needs of all citizens.”
Source: South African Government News Agency