The NHI has unleashed vigorous criticism

by Aug 10, 2009All Articles

SABC News  10 July 2009

The debate is still raging about government’s proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme which is meant to offer all South Africans access to universal healthcare. The proposal is based on the premise that South Africa’s current public health system is failing. But the unveiling of the plan has unleashed vigorous criticism around.
It is said with the introduction of the NHI, government’s proposed medical scheme could change the current landscape, bringing essential services to patients with chronic conditions. At present only 7 million South Africans belong to private medical schemes, meaning that roughly 40 million citizens rely on eroded public health facilities.

If implemented, the NHI will mean that the state gives all citizens quality public healthcare services, that it covers all necessary treatment free of charge and will be funded by taxpayers. For patients, implementation of the NHI would also equate to three visits to a general practitioner, equal access to public and private institutions as well as a drop in excessive private health sector costs.

But skeptics say the system could be headed for failure unless hospital management issues are urgently dealt with. And the recent doctors’ strike action has been seen as a symptom to the chaos in which our public healthcare is. Proposal on the NHI has been met with mixed feelings as some within the sector believe that despite difficulties that could be encountered during its implementation, with the harnessing of skills the programme could be a success in due time.

Health economist, Dr Chris Malekani says: “Initially of course there’ll be difficulties in getting the system up and running because of the skills capacity problems but I think that through harnessing the skills and through leveling out remunerations between public and private, its going to ease and therefore make some skills available for the public sector to thrive.” Government’s proposal is that the NHI should be phased-in over five years.

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