The provincial minister for Health Nomafrench Mbombo hopes the signing of a Presidential Health Compact will help improve the healthcare system from a grassroots level.Mbombo shared her hopes during a media briefing held at the provincial offices in the central business district (CBD) on Tuesday 30 July.She said the province on its own cannot sustain quality healthcare services due to a lack of financial support. She said the budget for the province has been decreased by R9bn over the past three years. She said the collaborative initiative would not just benefit the government but mostly the public at large, especially those who cannot afford private healthcare. Mbombo said: “When you look at the bailouts that treasury gives to state-owned enterprises, you will never hear of a bailout for the health department and because of budget cuts, health facilities cannot afford to employ more staff. We have a shortage of staff.”When the idea was introduced, the department saw an opportunity to improve the state of health for all and decided to put the political conflicts aside and “do what is right”. “It is all about the people, not our egos. Hence we volunteered to work with the national government,” said Mbombo.She said the province will be convening a consultative forum with stakeholders on Thursday 5 September towards strengthening the health system by achieving universal health coverage. Mbombo said their approach would be three-fold: a plan for health system strengthening, a policy response to National Health Insurance and becoming a laboratory for the universal health coverage for learning from practice.Mbombo said: “We are already putting in place plans to learn from public-private collaborations in two areas: Saldanha Bay Municipality and Klipfontein Sub-district. “There is progress in inter-provincial collaboration for joint learning-related health system strengthening.”Mbombo acknowledged that the provincial health department has been overburdened since the rise in violent crimes, especially in the Cape Flats. She said a recent study at Groote Schuur Hospital indicated that the treatment of each victim shot costs the department between R22 000 to R25 000; and with the on-going violence, the problem was not only overcrowding and long waiting periods but to maintain and keep things afloat.Mbombo said it is for these reasons that joint efforts are important – not only by the government and relevant stakeholders, but by the public as well. She said examples of how the public could help included efforts to prevent teenage pregnancies; interventions to stop gang violence through working with authorities; and having private sectors establish means of providing healthcare systems within their organisations.She said more manageable numbers could provide relief on resources, lighten the burden on staff and assure that funds go towards the continuous improvement of healthcare.V What are your thoughts on this? Please email Nomzamo.Yuku@people’spost.co.za.