Minister of Health Wades into Private Sector Health Care
South Africa faces health system equity challenges, and in fact some 43% of total health care expenditure goes to private health insurance schemes, which also only covers 16% of the population. Health care in South Africa is no longer what it is supposed to be – caring, helpful and dedicated. There is a lot of money at stake and it receives priority over health.
Health care has become a business, and interest and intentions are not on the sick patient, but on their cash. No cash equals no health care. If you don’t have money when you enter a private hospital, you’ll be firmly ushered out, even if if you are at death’s door. Just listen to the news and you’ll see that not a day goes by that South Africa’s health services don’t make the headlines. Most stories speak of neglect and disinterest.
Access to Quality Health Care?
The ongoing under-performance of the South African health care system is essentially about finances and lack of adequate care. Aaron Motsoaledi, health minister, has given a clear and precise background of government’s plans for the NHI or National Health Insurance Scheme. The scheme is supposedly being implemented over the next decade or so. It is supposed to allow more people to access quality care.
Motsoaledi said it shouldn’t be that people face such tough financial decisions around medical treatment. The treatment for breast cancer is roughly R500 000 and who can afford that?
It doesn’t make sense or seem right that people have to sleep on the streets because they sold everything to try and keep a family member alive. To this end, he has called for a complete overhaul of the health care system in the private- and public sector.
Private Health Care needs to be Seriously Regulated
Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi went on to say that the cost of private health care in South Africa certainly now needs to be regulated and that a single fund needed to be built to ensure access to quality and affordable health care for every South African and not just for a select group.
He said that according to Chapter 6 of the White Paper, the entire health care system – private and public – needs to be shaken up and re-organised, with emphasis on primary health care.
Motsoaledi added that there was a need to move towards a more efficient health system for all South Africans. While hospital groups looked at regulation as a last resort and opted for exploring public-private partnerships, Motsoaledi said such partnerships, as what is being done in Lesotho, was affecting that country’s financial resources.
The Minister also said that pots of money paid to the private health care sector was taken up with administration costs and brokers.
The Stock Market or Health Care Service Delivery?
Dr Pillay from the Department of Health also said that 3 of the biggest hospital groups are listed on the stock exchange. This he said is often in conflict with the ethical responsibility of service delivery in health care. He said that the health of patients is top priority regardless of their ability to pay.
South Africans are Waiting for this so-called ‘Miracle Change’
When all is said and done, the introduction of the National Health Insurance Scheme will supposedly cover everything – different from the current system which doesn’t carry everything – and the Minister reckons that it’s arrival, when it comes, is going to usher in a huge change in the private and public sector.