Mkhize admits SA’s health sector does not have enough resources for current and future needs

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  • Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the backlog as well as the current and future needs for health services far exceeded the current allocation of resources.
  • Mkhize added all indications pointed to a chronic underfunding of the sector.
  • On Thursday, he tabled the health department's R62.5 billion budget vote and policy statement for the 2021/22 financial year.

The country's backlog as well as its current and future needs for health services far exceed the current allocation of resources, and all indications point to the sector's chronic underfunding.

This according to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize who tabled the health department's R62.5 billion budget vote and policy statement for the 2021/22 financial year in Parliament on Thursday.

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Mkhize told MPs health expenditure was expected to increase by 0.8% per year, from R58.1 billion to R59.4 billion in the 2020/21 and 2023/24 financial years, respectively.

"Needless to say, the backlog, current and future needs for health services far exceed the current allocation of resources, and all indications point to chronic underfunding of this sector.

"Despite the challenging reductions to the budget, I believe we have stretched our resources through strengthened relations with multilateral organisations such as UNAIDS and UNICEF and key investment partners, such as Global Fund, PEPFAR, the Clinton Health Access Initiative and the Solidarity Fund to ensure that health services in this country continue to advance. We appreciate this support," he added.

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According to his figures, an estimated 85.9% (R157.7 billion) of the department's budget over the medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) period would be transferred to provinces through conditional grants.

It will increase by 0.3% from R52.1 billion in 2020/21 to R52.6 billion in 2023/24.

Mkhize said to remain within the national aggregate expenditure ceiling, Cabinet had approved reductions on the department's baseline amounting to R15 billion over the period ahead.

On the impact of Covid-19, he added the department's most urgent focus would be to combat the virus over the medium term.

This would be done, Mkhize said, through comprehensive local intervention programmes, for which R9 billion had been allocated.

"Globally, the lesson from the impact of Covid-19 has emphasised the necessity of investing in long-term resilience and sustainability of health systems to enable us to better respond to future health emergencies and crises."

Despite Covid-19's negative impact on the country's finances, he added National Health Insurance (NHI) implementation remained one of the government's main objectives.

"In the MTEF period, R7.5 billion has been allocated to the NHI unit to strengthen the system and contract service providers.

"Dr Nicholas Crisp has been appointed as the deputy director-general of NHI, bringing a wealth of experience and passion into the portfolio.

"Tremendous progress has been made in the Health Patient Registration System (HPRS), with 57 million people registered at 3 111 public health facilities. The NHI fund will be set up as soon as the NHI Bill is passed."

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Mkhize said R20.6 billion would be committed in the MTEF for health facility revitalisation.

"[This is] to establish parity in the quality of public and private infrastructure through the Infrastructure Refurbishment Programme," he added.

The DA's spokesperson on health, Siviwe Gwarube, said the country's Covid-19 vaccination programme had been slow and "unless drastic measures are taken, those deaths will be squarely on this government".

EFF MP Sophie Suzan Thembekwayo said: "We have observed first-hand what the years of neglect of the public health system have done to the ability of our public hospitals to provide the most basic of services to the people."

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