Hasa allays concerns over healthcare talks

2010-10-25 15:01

The Hospital Association of SA (Hasa) today sought to allay concerns it was unwilling holding talks with the government and healthcare industry players about healthcare costs.

Hasa was “deeply concerned” that health minister Aaron Motsoaledi believed it was resistant to efforts to set up an independent pricing commission, said Hasa chairman Nkaki Matlala.

“The private hospital industry would like to make known its commitment to being part of a positive process as previously expressed.”

It was not that Hasa did not wish to participate, but rather that it was concerned about flouting competition law.

“We are awaiting written permission from the Competition Commission for us to participate in these discussions,” Matlala said.

The Competition Act prohibited negotiations between competitors in relation to prices and other trading terms. In 2002, the Competition Commission ruled that collective bargaining was in contravention of competition law.

“For this reason, and the fact that stakeholders are bound by the provisions of the act, Hasa is of the opinion that it is duty bound to clarify all requests that may be deemed to breach the law.”

Matlala said Hasa had written to the Competition Commission to clarify how the hospital sector could participate in health tariff discussions without transgressing the law.

“We are simply asking the department to be patient until we receive written permission to participate from the Competition Commission.”

Although not yet operational, the Competition Amendment Act makes provision for criminal liability for directors or managers of companies contravening the act. They could also be held personally liable and face either a fine of up to R500 000 or imprisonment of up to 10 years, or both.

“Hasa has also written to the registrar of medical schemes, Monwabisi Gantsho, to explain the situation.”

This would avoid any legal tussles “further down the line”.

The minister’s spokesperson, Fidel Hadebe, said the previous animosity that had prevailed between Hasa and the department of health involving court action had to be left behind so that the country’s healthcare could be put first.

“At all times, the minister has been open to discussion with Hasa and at no time has the minister ever shut the door in Hasa’s face. Where there are differences, we are open to discussion.”

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