Health Minister Plans to Provide Health Data on Tap

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is providing assistance to the Department of Health, It is helping plan for the launch of a streamlined system for providing health information in advance of the roll out of national health insurance (NHI).

Minister Aaron Motsoaledi made an announcement confirming this to doctors and medical students at the University of Pretoria recently.

He told the audience that if private and public sector are to be pooled together then a strong health information system is needed to provide a single NHI to pay for all health care services. Under current arrangements any patient can attend multiple clinics in a single day and collect medication without the other clinics knowing the Minister told trade unionists at a meeting of the South African Medical Association.

He went on to say “We are about to solve that with the CSIR.I know it took us many years, but we are not very far from finding a healthcare information system,”

Health Data Plans from Dr  Aaron MotsoalediProvincial health professionals have had to use ineffective systems with weak and inappropriate information. This makes it almost impossible to track how even the most simple health facility is being utilised so financial expenditure is difficult to plan and clinic and hospital funding has to deal with corruption and the abuse of resources.

In Gauteng, the health department has been part of a lengthy dispute with the National Health laboratory looking for millions of Rand in fees they maintain the department owes them but unfortunately it is unable to provide patient records to support the claim. Qedani Mahalngu, Health MEC in Guateng, believes these accounts are for private patients sent to public facilities by the doctors after their private health insurance has run out.

New Health Data System Needed

According to the Minister, his department had been working with CSI for five years to create a new system. At present Dr Motsoaledi could not confirm arrangements to ensure that the required numbers of GPs were contracted to use the new system during the pilot phase. Initially only 200 of the required 900 surgeries were signed up. The original target was for 900 doctors in 11 NHI districts. Doctors were complaining about the low
rate of pay being offered.

The Minister was unclear as to the reason behind the doctor’s issues. He claimed that they would be the group to benefit most from the new system as the system was focussing on primary healthcare providers. Currently 37 percent of pay outs from medical aid schemes went to private hospitals and a further 23 percent was paid to specialist doctors with GPs only receiving 8 percent. This was, according to Dr Motsoaledi, because patients bypass GPs and go directly to specialist doctors. He went on to say “Under NHI, we are going to demand that referrals must come via GPs. We want you to be the gatekeepers,” and added that the government did not intend to replace one expensive system with another.

*Watch an NHI discussion on YouTube