Concern over govt initiative

2013-02-26 00:00

THE National Budget Speech on Wednesday is expected to reveal further details on government’s proposed roll-out of the National Health Insurance (NHI) initiative, yet South Africa’s medical profession remains divided on whether this is the correct route to take.

This is according to a new survey released by PPS of about 700 medical professionals, which was conducted earlier this month. The survey found that 62% of those working in the public sector agreed with the principle behind the scheme, while only 57% in the private sector felt the same.

When asked whether NHI was the correct solution to fixing the ailing public health service, the figures were even more alarming.

Only 23% of respondents working in the public sector agreed, while 14% of those in the private sector said it was the right solution.

Gerhard Joubert, head of group marketing and stakeholder relations at PPS, said while government-employed medical professionals had slightly more optimism than those in the private sector, both segments were still concerned about the implementation of NHI. “There is a general assumption that medical professionals in the private sector have more misgivings about NHI than those in the public, however, it is clear that both groups still have serious misgivings,” Joubert said.

Earlier this month, the SA Medical Association warned that the NHI scheme could collapse if it was implemented now, as the health system was already overwhelmed by decaying resources.

Joubert said the continued concerns that were being raised about the NHI scheme showed that far greater dialogue needed to be opened between Government and the medical sector — both private and public — in order to find a workable solution.

“Government has committed to spending R255 billion on the NHI project by 2025, yet those actually working in the industry remain unconvinced,” said Joubert.

Joubert said it was critical, particularly since President Jacob Zuma confirmed in his state of the nation address that an NHI fund would be set up in 2014, the same time as the insurance programme was expected to launch nationally, that such concerns were taken seriously.

Commenting on the results of the survey, professor Alex Van Den Heever, chair of social security at the University of the Witwatersrand Graduate School of Public and Development Management, said: “When many of the failures of the public health system are systemic, it is furthermore unclear which systemic problems a “fund” is meant to address and what it’s meant to do.

“Particularly as the public health budget is already a ‘fund’ annually allocated by a parliament.

“Given the absence of any concrete proposals, including those regarding governance of such a fund, questions remain as to whether it will have any proper purpose,” said professor Van den Heever. — Business Reporter.

Gerhard Joubert

Government has committed to spending R255 billion on the NHI project by 2025, yet those actually working in the industry remain unconvinced.

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