'Brutal' private healthcare attacked again

2011-11-02 22:25

Cape Town - A month after Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi called the private health care system a "monster", his deputy re-applied the label.

"The system is monstrous and brutal," Deputy Health Minister Gwen Ramokgopa said in the National Assembly on Wednesday.

In October, Motsoaledi controversially described private healthcare in South Africa as a "brutal system", and a monster "that will swallow us whole".

Ramokgopa, responding to a question in the House about the remarks, told MPs there was a need to deal with the "uncontrolled, unregulated commercialisation of health care" in the country.

This undermined the principle of health care as a public good.

She offered examples of the private sector charging exorbitant amounts for treatment, saying such "high and unjustifiable" charges had thrown even financially stable families into poverty.

"Recent high and unjustifiable costs brought to the attention of the ministry include R18 000 [charged] for a D&C [dilation and curettage]... and R30 000 for a peri-anal abscess, which is a... relatively minor operation. And R67 000 for an evaluation of someone who had a car accident and who walked into a hospital.

"[Further, an amount of] R500 000 for a laparotomy for a peritoneal abscess, in addition to separate surgeon's fees of R27 000 and an anaesthetic fee of R3 000. And another R700 000, for the same patient, for a repeat of the same operation."

Ramokgopa said Motsoaledi had no problem "relating" to the private sector, and his department would need its expertise as the country moved towards establishing a national health care system.

"The minister has no problem relating to the private sector, he relates well to it, he consults it... but I think [such] incidents are inhumane."

She said Motsoaledi, in his choice of words, had been "objectively assessing the state of the private healthcare system as it is and how South Africans currently see it".

  • Maximus Odinidus - 2011-11-02 22:53

    When they say the minister consults private healthcare do they mean that he uses private healthcare as opposed to government facilities?

      Francois - 2011-11-03 12:33

      No, the incidents referred to was when Gwede Mantashe amd Malema and Ehrinriech went to the private hospital and paid too much of taxpayers' money that the either got directly or embezzled and then got another kickback from the hospital and a medical aid fund claim?

  • DieSkim - 2011-11-02 22:57

    What is monstrous and brutal is the state of public healthcare in this country, the reason for the rise of public healthcare in the first place. Gone are the qualified doctors and sympathetic nurses, gone are the clean hospitals. Instead patients are now being raped in their beds, newborn babies are dying by the dozens, corpses are left to rot in hallways, pleading patients are ignored, hospitals are dirty and claims of abuse rife. Perhaps, Minister, you should first take the broom to your own doorstep and take a good, hard look at the rubbish that you and your "comrades" have created before pointing fingers.

      piet.strydom - 2011-11-03 02:03

      Agree, but at the same time these claims should be investigated and verified. If true, then those hospitals and doctors should be taken to task. Most of them are angels of mercy, but you have a few little devils in there too.

      Lyndatjie - 2011-11-03 07:32

      Agree! How about the Minister calls for some STATS that is a true reflection of the current state between patients who are treated by Private Healthcare vs State Hospitals? How many people are dying in state hospitals and how many are dying in private health care. Work it out proportionately and then I HOPE HE HANGS HIS HEAD IN SHAME for regaling the population of South Africa to certain death! A friend at work and my mum went in for colon cancer at the SAME time. My mum was in a clean ward with excellent nurses and doctors with every machine attached to her to monitor her progress. After her operation she immediately got Radium and Chemo Therapy and she is still alive today. My friend's mum layed in a dirty ward for 3 days after her hospital with blood and puss seeping through her wounds and left unattend in her own urine and feaces. She was then sent home where she collapsed because of infection and taken back to hospital. Released again after 2 days. Was given TWO radiation treatments and then stopped and told that she was cured. 4 weeks later she was dead! And the crux of the story? My mother had much larger cancer markers in her blood & cancer were in her lymphnodes which didn't happen to my friend's mum. So the truth of the matter is - State Hospitals will CHOOSE who to treat based on availability of resources WHICH WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH! That puts the choice of who will live and who will die in their hands. In other words... they will be playing GOD!

  • michel.pieterse - 2011-11-03 05:50

    No I absolutely agree with him, the private healthcare is an absolute rip-off, I agree that the public healthcare is in tatters, which leaves us no alternative but to use private healthcare systems, but does that give the private HC systems the right to take advantage of this? It’s a known fact that they are also extort the medical aid companies and regrettably WE are the ones paying for it at the end of the day. Now I realize that if the public HC systems was managed more adequately that we would not be in this predicament and at the moment you are probably better off attempting to heal yourself than going to a Public hospital, but the fact remains that Private Hospitals etc are taking advantage of this and extorting the public. I personally have a friend who is a manager for a large corporation and was in good financial standing, Beginning of this year he had a minor accident and had to go into surgery for a crushed cervical vertebrae, which in today’s day in age is not a infrequent major operation, there was some complications during the operation due to misplaced drain pipes (in a very popular private hospital in Durban)which HE was billed for. He now is under sequestration for the extraordinary high medical bills and will be for the next 3 years. Medical and pharmaceutical companies are nothing but money making machines protecting no one else but the investors, it’s a business, nothing more.

  • Andrew - 2011-11-03 07:31

    Yes! I agree private health care is very expensive but public healthcare is virtually non existant.Ask anyone who goes to a public hospital and has to wait for hours to be helped, not to mention the bad attitude of some staff.

  • Willem - 2011-11-03 08:02

    Why do the health department not bring their service up to the same standard as private health care first and then compare prices. They give every body a much lower standard of care and then wants to scream foul. It is about standards minister as you well know. The other day I found a high ANC official taking a rest from stress in a private hospitals high care unit. Perhaps the stress of having a massive salary but can't deliver is catching up on some.

  • Osman Mamdoo - 2011-11-03 08:11

    I am not worried about prices. It's the service that we get from the private hospital. Pathetic been a nice word

  • Warwick - 2011-11-03 08:12

    It amazes me how many of our so called ministers are not scared for them or their family members to make use of this brutal system. No government hospital for them thank you. All on medical aid. Lead the way you lying pig and cancel your medical aid and make use of the government hospital. I dare you.

  • Glenda - 2011-11-03 08:17

    I agree the private healthcare should be looked into. Two years ago my father was in the Sunward Park hospital, the treatment of an old man was questionable and so was the operational prosedure. He died because of their neglect!We paid a high bill, for them to kill him.

      Gammat - 2011-11-03 09:32

      You shouldn't have paid the b@stards.

  • Kala - 2011-11-03 08:31

    For once I agree partially with the Minister. The fees charged by Private Health Care are a rip off. A GP charges in the region of R360.00 for a consultation which can last for about 10 minutes. In a lot of cases you tell the Doc your symptoms and he gives you a script after glancing at your blood pressure. That equates to R17 280.00 in an 8 hour day. The alternative, Public Health Care, is potentially however a lot more costly. In several cases cash notes are not enough. You have to pay with your life.

  • Gammat - 2011-11-03 08:43

    Bottomline only, this is what happens when corporate listed racketeering greedy lazy parasitic leeches called investors take control of essential services. It is a monopoly, rife with collusion.

  • Richard - 2011-11-03 09:00

    A successful NHI implementation hinges on collaboration between all stakeholders in the healthcare industry, whether they are private or public sector aligned. In other words the DoH (with its public sector healthcare assets), medical schemes (with their eight million beneficiaries) and business (with their hospitals and clinics) should work towards the same end goal. But for some reason – instead of fostering such partnerships – the health minister Aaron Motsoaledi and other high-ranking public sector stakeholders avail of every opportunity to bash the private sector. For years they have engaged in blatant “anti-private sector” propaganda to paint one of the world’s best-functioning private healthcare systems as the enemy of the common man. The private healthcare sector is the devil, in other words... A brutal system that commercialises an essential service

  • vdwjasper - 2011-11-03 09:01

    What I don't get is why the varsities and ultimately the Health department do not allow for more medical students to be accepted. There sure is enough clever kids out there to make the cut. I know there is huge cost involved in schooling more doctors, but surely we need many, many more whitecloaks rather desperately at the moment. Circulating say twice or three times as many doctors in a year - would that not drive down medical costs also?

  • Richard - 2011-11-03 09:02

    In his latest tirade, delivered Sunday 9 October 2011, the minister labelled the private healthcare industry as a “brutal system” which had commercialised an essential service. Quoted in a Sapa release (on, he asked a group of general practitioners in Durban: “How can we run such a brutal system?” He then said that government would not fold its arms when there was such rampant commercialisation in the healthcare sector. Ironically – government is less concerned with the efficiencies in this system than the perceived cost! And one has to ask: What has the profit generated by free market activities in the private healthcare space got to do with a functioning NHI? More importantly: How can the private sector sit down at a table and work on an NHI solution when such vitriol is continually directed at it?

  • Richard - 2011-11-03 09:03

    There is no shortage of self-serving statistic to back up Motsoaledi’s claims. Private hospitals and specialists receive the bulk of the country’s annual healthcare expenditure, he ranted, with private hospitals (R31.1 billion) and specialists (R19 billion) eating up the bulk of the R84 billion total. Another R14 billion goes to pharmaceuticals, R6.2 billion to general practitioners and only R14 billion to public-healthcare and non-medical expenses! What is he saying? These numbers are meaningless because there’s no reference made to the actual services purchases… Nor do these “numbers” compare existing healthcare expenditure to what an all-encompassing NHI solution might entail. In other words – is the contribution per capita under the current “brutal” system likely to be significantly less when NHI is fully functioning? Besides – commenting on how much is currently spent in the private sector when this money is contributed by beneficiaries of such care is disingenuous.

  • Richard - 2011-11-03 09:04

    What concerns us is how this private sector bashing crops up throughout the Green Paper too… A prime example of this discrediting process is in point 27 of the 12 August 2011 release: “Over the past decade private hospital costs have increased by 121%, whilst over the same period specialists costs have increased by 120%.” This, they conclude, “means that the private healthcare sector will have to accept that the charging of exorbitant fees completely out of proportion to the services provides have to be radically transformed!” What? By my calculation these “excessive” price increases work out at around 8% per annum – a touch above CPI, but not extraordinary. To find excessive increases one need look no further than electricity – a basic service under government’s control – which will have surged 95% over three years ending 2012.

      Kala - 2011-11-03 09:10

      Just another way of directing attention away from the governments own efficiencies.

  • Richard - 2011-11-03 09:05

    Government’s signature is already everywhere in private health Private sectors might make profits – but there is already a crossing over between the concept of regulated healthcare and the proposed NHI. Government, through the Council for Medical Schemes and other regulatory intervention such as PMB, is already calling the shots in the private medical insurance sector! The bottom line is that the private sector’s “place” in the eventual NHI solution is by no means guaranteed. This reality is not lost on everyone. Jasson Urbach, a director of the Health Policy Unit (a division of the Free Market Foundation) shared some of his thoughts on the prescribed minimum benefits (PMB) system recently. “Critics of private healthcare argue that the private sector does not do enough, that it dumps patients on the public sector and is only interested in ‘money first’,” he begins. He goes on to mention an article by Sonderup, Spearman and Geffen, who argued in the Business Day that medical schemes were evil because they failed to cover the treatment of many diseases causing patients to fall into the void between the public and private sectors.

  • Richard - 2011-11-03 09:06

    Not so, countered Urbach: “It is government that determines which conditions are included in the list of PMBs, not medical schemes, and certainly no one individual scheme.” He pointed out that when benefits were determined politically rather than by medical schemes responding to what individuals needed, the benefit packages expand and their costs increase! The “Eureka” moment The spiralling private sector costs government complains about were in part caused by their intervention in healthcare provisioning. “The consequence is that low cost medical schemes that cover the basic needs of low-income people can no longer be efficiently designed and the unfortunate low income earners are denied cover – and it is these individuals that are driven into the void between the public and private sector,” said Urbach. “Medical schemes are not charities, but rather obliged by economic realities and the interests of the members of their schemes to take great care in managing available resources. If scheme managers were to recklessly pay claims that are not included in the agreements with scheme members they would be guilty of dereliction of duty and would threaten the solvency and continued existence of the schemes they are managing.”

  • dietmar.schekierka - 2011-11-03 09:54

    One quick way to fix the public healthcare system. Make a law that all parlimantarians and their families must use public facilities and any transgression be fined substantially both for the transgressor and the private doctor or hospital.

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