Johannesburg - Retired chief justice Sandile Ngcobo on Thursday urged private healthcare players to cooperate with the ongoing market inquiry into the private healthcare sector.
Ngcobo, who chairs the inquiry, said so far there has been no need to resort to the provisions of the Competition Act to gain the cooperation of industry players. His mild warning comes as the inquiry prepares to enter its public hearings phase. The public hearings are set to begin on February 16 and end on June 9. The inquiry must be completed by December 15.
Ngcobo went to greats lengths to emphasise how the hearings would be non-adversorial and called them an information gathering process. “This is not litigation,” Ngcobo said.
“We urge participants to approach the hearings with the same spirit of cooperation that has characterised the conduct of the parties,” Ngcobo said. The inquiry expects to hear presentations from a range of participants including hospital groups, brokers, medical schemes, consumers, consumer groups, funders, financiers and policy makers.
Ngcobo said the inquiry will submit recommendations to the Competition Commission. After that, it would have no further control and influence on the implementation of the recommendations.
A market inquiry is typically initiated when there is suspicion that competition in a particular market is not working well. Sharp increases in hospital and specialist costs have been a source of concern for too long in South Africa.
The commission said the inquiry is a general investigation into the state, nature and form of competition in the private healthcare sector. It said it initiated the inquiry because it believed there were features in the market that prevented, distorted or restricted competition.
Ngcobo said government has an obligation to facilitate access to healthcare as required by Section 27 of the constitution.