More than R2 billion has been allocated for the intake of medical interns over the next two financial years.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla announced the funds on Tuesday as he tabled his policy and budget vote, focusing on health priorities including the management of the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Health Insurance and the response to the burden of communicable diseases.
Phaahla also mentioned that the department’s budget allocation for the 2022/23 financial year was about R64.5 billion, of which R55 billion will be transferred to provinces as conditional grants to support various activities.
However, the minister was concerned that the medium-term health budget would be going down by 1.7% each year before factoring in inflation. This, he said, was not good for the health services in the country. The minister said:
“There are 2 429 medical interns and community service personnel among the doctors, nurses and pharmacists who were employed. We are grateful for the additional R2.1 billion over the next two financial years allocated for medical interns,” Phaahla said.
Progress has been made with regards to stability in healthcare through the employment of more than 47 000 community health workers, even though more work still needs to be done to finalise the nature of their long-term engagement.
Phaahla said that in the current financial year, provinces will share the R6.8 billion in direct conditional grants managed by them under the health facilities revitilisation grant to construct and maintain hospitals, clinics and other health facilities.
He said the staffing of health facilities was key to the improvement of quality service.
The presidential stimulus package which was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2020 for Covid-19 was continued in 2021/22, which enabled provinces to employ 73 000 additional staff, many of whom were on short-term contracts.
“In this financial year, an amount of R1.5 billion will be managed by national health to support various infrastructure projects in NHI pilot districts, with contracts already issued for Siloam Hospital in Limpopo and the Zithulele and Bambisanani district hospitals, which are both in the OR Tambo district of the Eastern Cape.” He said:
“In the past financial year, 51 clinics and community health centres were constructed and 21 hospital were revitalised. In terms of backlog maintenance, 50 projects are currently under construction.”
Going forward, the department needs to make sure of the implementation of the Human Resources for Health (2030) strategy.
“We regard the community health workers as very essential to the sustainability of public healthcare, focusing on health promotion, [disease] prevention, and adherence to treatment for HIV/Aids and TB. A total amount of R5.4 billion is allocated in this financial year to support various aspects of health professions training in provinces, including additional personnel where necessary,” Phaahla said.
A total R24 billion has been allocated to fight the Aids epidemic.