Private healthcare ‘a monster’, says minister

2011-10-11 14:19

South Africa’s private health care system is a monster that will swallow the country whole, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said today.

“People think I am mad, but the health care system wasn’t always this way. Our shortage [in medical staff] is self-created,” he said.

“Health is a fundamental human right and if we don’t work together this monster will swallow us whole. This is not a joke. I will talk this madness until South Africans join the madness.”

Motsoaledi was speaking at the launch of the Human Resource Strategy for Health in Joburg.

“Improving human planning, development and management is instrumental in the overhaul of the health system,” he said.

The health sector needed a skilled workforce able to respond to the burden of disease and citizens’ expectations of quality service.
He said a shortage of medical staff was caused by poor planning by the apartheid government.

“We are suffering because of their messes. We are also creating our own messes but we need to stop this. The country used to be fragmented by colour but it is fragmented by economics now,” said the minister.

Motsoaledi said the strategy included revamping existing hospitals, the creation of a new medical school, and increasing the quota of medical students accepted by universities each year.

“We need many, many, many students to increase the output of doctors. Almost three times what we have now. And, even if we do this for 10 years, we still won’t meet the amount for doctors that we need,” he said.

“The training of people from rural areas is important because when they finish study they go back to practice at their areas. I did the same thing.”
Motsoaledi said he had spoken to deans from universities around the country, and the University of Witwatersrand was the first to participate in the strategy.

“The university has increased its intake by 40 students. This was at a cost of R8 million, which I think is a very good figure to spend on human resources,” he said.

“To spend on human resources is a life-long investment, and the Finance Minister [Pravin Gordhan] was very supportive of this investment.”

Motsoaledi said the department was creating posts for medical professionals at a district level.

“These district teams will be comprised of an obstetrician, gynaecologist, paediatrician, family physician, and anaesthetist,” he said.

“This running to a private specialist for every ailment is abnormal. Public health care should be the first step. If a housewife is cutting vegetables and she gets cut with the knife, she can’t immediately go to a plastic surgeon. It doesn’t work like that.”

Motsoaledi said many private practitioners needed to move back into the public healthcare sector to improve the quality of medical care and education.

“How to get these doctors back is the million dollar question. We are planning for this and we will reveal our plans soon.” 

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