Humphrey Zokufa: Health warrior and visionary

2017-01-29 06:09
Humphrey Zokufa

Humphrey Zokufa

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Humphrey Zokufa was a high-calibre leader whose hearty laugh and smile were contagious and who had an effervescent personality.

His amiable and engaging disposition had procured him many friends.

He was recently appointed as the CEO and registrar of the Council for Medical Schemes after serving as the managing director for the Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF) of Southern Africa for 11 years.

Even though he was at the helm of a body that represents the private medical industry, he was a passionate proponent of the National Health Insurance (NHI) process with the goal of achieving universal coverage.

The Eastern Cape-born Zokufa’s vision was much bigger than industry politics. He believed in equitable, quality healthcare for all.

He was passionate about promoting access to healthcare for all South Africans and that is why he supported the NHI.

He worked tirelessly to explore the role that the private health sector needed to play in the NHI process in order to achieve its shared aims.

It therefore came as no surprise when the minister of health appointed him to be a member of the NHI ministerial advisory committee in 2009.

He also served on Work Stream 4, which was established to explore the role that medical aid schemes will play in an NHI environment.

Zokufa was a determined leader when, in 2010/11, he challenged – on behalf of BHF members – the interpretation of regulation 8 of Medical Schemes Act.

This played out in a highly publicised court case in which the BHF asked the Gauteng High Court to issue a declaratory order to clarify the interpretation.

Unfortunately, various healthcare providers opposed this initiative.

Undeterred by his critics and the Gauteng High Court judge’s refusal to provide the declaration, Zokufa continued to engage in various meetings with Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on this matter, asking him to intervene appropriately.

The amendments to regulation 8 of the Medical Schemes Act were ultimately issued by the department of health in 2015.

This he saw as the step towards balancing the scales, the step that would make private healthcare more affordable and accessible.

Zokufa will be remembered for his willingness to talk regardless of the politics.

He spoke out against escalating private healthcare costs and he was concerned about the lack of growth in the number of people that join medical aid schemes.

He was committed to finding ways to reverse this trend, which has on a yearly basis seen medical aid scheme contribution increases that are higher than the consumer price index.

He dedicated the time he served at the BHF to work with industry leaders and various stakeholders to explore ways and means to bring some relief to the South African consumer.

Zokufa possessed a great amount of energy, which he intelligently directed towards transforming the healthcare sector.

He successfully implemented the dispensing licensing process by the department of health, to license non-pharmaceutical health professionals to dispense medicine.

In 2003, he played a crucial role in the initiation of the provision in the Pharmacy Act, allowing any person who was not a pharmacist to own a pharmacy.

With nearly four decades of experience in the health sector, Zokufa served in numerous key positions, including that of chief director for health management services in the Eastern Cape and cluster manager for pharmaceutical policy and planning in the national department of health.

In January 2005, he was appointed as the registrar of the Medicines Control Council.

During this period, he established the National Essential Drugs List Committee, and also took over the responsibility of licensing pharmacies, which was previously conducted by the SA Pharmacy Council.

He was appointed by the minister of health to be a member of the ministerial task team that looked into the restructuring of the Medicines Control Council in 2006.

The industry has lost a strong and brave soldier, one who was not afraid to take the bullet for what he believed in.

His death has robbed the industry of his vast knowledge and experience in the health sector.

At home, Zokufa was a loving husband to his wife, Thandiwe, and a doting father of three daughters and a son, as well as a grandfather to his two grandchildren.

May his soul rest in peace.

This article was contributed by Clarence Mini, the BHF’s acting managing director

Read more on:    council for medical schemes  |  humphrey zokufa  |  healthcare
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