Treasury sets aside R33 million for Ebola control

2014-10-22 14:40

Treasury has allocated an additional R32.6 million to the health department to prevent the spread of Ebola to South Africa.

Speaking at a media briefing shortly before tabling his first mid-term budget today, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said the money would be used to “insulate” South Africa by helping the affected countries in West Africa contain the disease.

“I’ve just returned from a high-level World Bank meeting, where it [was] clear that some countries did not actually think that it was necessary to provide for Ebola because it was not in their countries,” he said.

“As fate would have it ... even advanced countries have seen cases of Ebola being identified. In the United States, in Spain, we’ve seen this.”

The majority of Ebola cases have been confined to the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

South Africa would provide support to these countries, Nene said.

“The reports we have [on] the number of passengers flying in and out of our country show that unless you do something about Ebola – both as a means of insulating yourself, but also in order to assist that it is contained where it is – you actually would not be doing yourself a favour,” said Nene.

The Ebola allocation formed part of “unforeseeable and unavoidable expenditure” added to the health budget for the current financial year, which now totals R145.5bn.

According to the 2014 Adjusted Estimates of National Expenditure, close to half a trillion rand will be spent on health care over the next three years, with a sizeable percentage going towards medication for HIV-positive South Africans.

Some 2.7 million South Africans are now on antiretroviral drugs.

“The comprehensive HIV and Aids conditional grant will grow by about 13% a year over the medium term.”

On the planned introduction of a National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme, it says only that this will require a “significant restructuring of intergovernmental fiscal relations” in the health sector.

“These considerations will be examined by a high-level working group that will make recommendations to the ministers’ committee on the budget.”

Asked at the briefing why the implementation of the NHI was slow in coming, Nene reminded the media that it was a 14-year-project.

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