The National Health Insurance 18 months down the line

By Mzukona Mantshontsho
Aaron Motsoaledi

In line with the vision of the Department of Health (DoH) of: ‘A Long and Healthy Life for all South Africans’, Minister Pakishe Aaron Motsoaledi on Saturday 7 September said the department is on a positive path to bring health to the majority of South Africans.
The National Health Insurance (NHI) pilot plan for South Africa, forms part of the National Development Plan, which is part of the bigger plan of the Universal Health Coverage that should be rolled-out to the 7 billion people on mother Earth. The NHI started 18 months ago, is meant to be delivered over a period of 14 years, obviously taking into account the various burdens of disease in various countries and regions on the continent.
The NHI according to the Minister Motsoaledi will be delivered under the following conditions: “Every citizen has a right to access decent and affordable health, irrespective of the economic situation of the individual”. This pilot plan is being rolled-out to 11 districts in the nine provinces in South Africa so as to see if what we have on paper will be implemented practically, and bring healthcare to the people.
This was the message by Dr. Lewis Sambo, World Health Organisation (Africa Executive), during a summit of Health Ministers and Finance Ministers from all African countries. The major thrusts of this message and plan being the development of health infrastructure, bricks & mortar, ICT, human resources and enabling systems to bring healthcare to the masses.
The districts are Tshwane in Gauteng, Vhembe in Limpopo, OR Tambo in the Eastern Cape (the hardest hit district), Thabo Mofutsanyana in the Free State, Gert Sibande in Mpumalanga, Kenneth Kaunda in the North West, Pixley ka Seme in the Northern Cape, Eden in the Western Cape, and UMzinyathi, UMgungundlovu and Ijuba in KwaZulu-Natal.
Minister Motsoaledi on Wednesday 11 September was forced to immediately set up a task team to look at the health situation in the Eastern Cape following a damning report by a concerned coalition (Denosa, Section 27 Organisation, just to mention a few) to take the Ministry to court about the appauling health conditions in the Eastern Cape. The ministry has been given two months to respond and give solutions.
After a thorough audit by the DoH of the hardest hit areas in terms of health service delivery, a five-point pilot project has been extended to 901 facilities, to deal with:
Health Infrastructure (building new facilities, refurbishing old facilities, the supply of water and electricity and the building of decent structures);
High Quality of Health Care (drug stock maintenance, reasonable waiting times at hospital, positive attitudes of staff, and cleanliness);
Human Resources (closed nursing colleges to be re-opened as per the State of the Nation Address by President Jacob Gedley’hlekisa Zuma earlier in the year and the training of doctors in Cuba – an agreement between former State President Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro and the then Health Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to train doctors in Cuba – when the programme started, we had 60 doctors trained, today the number is between 700 and 1000 each year);
Re-engineering of primary Health Care (health care will be rolled out to the 12million school going children in SA and reaching a target of 42,000 trained primary health care givers, currently at 10,000), and;
Contracting Private Doctors into the Public Health System (Doctors in the private sector to be contracted to public facilities for certain hours a week and paid for those hours, for services rendered).
Congratulations are in order for Minister Motsoaledi for being appointed International Chairperson of the Stop TB Partnership – an initiative that will deal with the 22 countries that carry 70% of TB in the world, six of them being in the SADC region.
As a sign of hard work and determination by Minister Motsoaledi to bring affordable and decent healthcare to communities, on Friday 10 May 2013, Dr. Motsoaledi led the launch of the Rotary Family Health Days (RFHD) that was held from Thursday 9 – Saturday 11 May 2013 across the country in an accelerated effort to increase access to family health care services.
The three days of health launch could not have come at a perfect time following the first official launch of “Healthy Lifestyles in South Africa” on Saturday 4 May 2013 at Thokoza Park in Soweto, stressing the fact that prevention is better than cure.
The launch was held at the Emthonjeni Community Centre, in Zandspruit informal settlement in the north of Johannesburg, where an estimated 3000 community members turned up for various health screenings, counselling services, measles and polio immunisations, HIV/AIDS testing and counselling, Tuberculosis(TB) education and Non-communicable diseases information sessions.
Rotary should be applauded for the over 160 sites across the country and the RFHDs should be an annual thing. These RFHDs couldn’t have come at the right time as we are in the middle of our polio and measles drive across the country. Over the three days, testing and counselling of over 50,000 people for HIV/AIDS will take place, simultaneously, in all nine SA provinces. Other services will include TB symptomatic screening, diabetes and blood pressure screening, polio and measles vaccination, deworming and the dispensing of vitamin A tablets,” said Minister Motsoaledi.
“We are using this opportunity to continue the implementation of our polio and measles campaign roll-out. We aim to consistently improve the healthcare delivery systems in this country and we feel that the RFHDs are the perfect vehicle to assist us in this,” he said. As we are less than 1,000 days away from the Millennium Development Goals, these RFHDs will help us achieve our goals, he insisted.
Minister Motsoaledi also took a swipe at smokers in our society. “No Philosopher, scientist, political leader or professor can convience me of what smoking has contributed to humanity. Smoking contributed to DEATH, DEATH, DEATH and more DEATHS, he lamented. To get rid of disease, let’s stop smoking, stop drinking – there is nothing like responsible drinking in my book, let’s stick to healthy lifestyles and exercise regularly. Let’s repeat these RFHDs next year,” he concluded.

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