SA healthcare system not ready for NHI: SAMA

todayDecember 8, 2023 24

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The South African Medical Association (SAMA) says the current state of the health care system in the country is not adequately prepared for the implementation of the National Health Insurance Bill (NHI).

On Wednesday, the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) passed the controversial NHI bill.

The organisation says the readiness of healthcare facilities, in public and private sectors, is a critical factor for the successful implementation of the NHI.

The bill, which has been rejected by several opposition parties including the DA and the EFF, is aimed at providing universal healthcare to all South Africans.

It will be funded by general taxes, contributions of persons earning above a set amount and monthly contributions made by employees to the fund.

While SAMA believes that every citizen should have access to essential healthcare services without financial hardships, they’ve raised concerns over several critical aspects of the current legislation.

SAMA’s Chairperson Dr Mvuyisi Mzukwa says the bill requires extensive revisions to ensure its effectiveness in facilitating sustainable financing for universal health coverage.

He says it’s crucial to highlight the potential ramifications, citing that if not addressed, it could undermine the very essence of universal health coverage.

“The Office of Healthcare Standards and Compliance (OHSC) report indicates significant compliance challenges in public healthcare facilities, highlighting issues such as understaffing, limited resources, poor leadership/management, and poor infrastructure.”

Mzukwa also slammed the exclusion of medical doctors and other healthcare professionals from contributing to the practical aspects of the bill.

“The absence of their input in decision-making processes, including the composition of the NHI Board, poses a risk of a healthcare workforce exodus. To ensure the success of the NHI, it is imperative to include healthcare professionals in all relevant boards and decision-making processes.”

Among some of the concerns raised by the association is the funding model for the bill.

SAMA has cautioned that the current funding mechanism, relying heavily on general tax revenue and surcharges on personal income tax may lead to financial hardships, particularly for the poor and middle-class citizens.

Mzukwa says universal health coverage is not only a matter of public health, but is also essential for addressing social justice concerns and historical disparities.

Here’s what you need to know about the Bill awaiting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s approval and for it to be signed into law:

  • The NHI fund will cover South Africans of all races, rich or poor and legal long-term residents.
  • There will be one pool of healthcare funding for private and public healthcare providers alike.
  • The cost of our healthcare system, which is currently the most expensive in the world, will be reduced.
  • When people visit healthcare facilities, there will be no fees charged because the NHI fund will cover the costs of people‚Äôs medical care in the same way that medical aids do for their members.
  • NHI will narrow the gap between the rich and poor in terms of standards of healthcare.
  • South Africans will no longer be required to contribute directly to a medical health scheme to get quality health care.

Written by: Lindiwe Mpanza

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