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DOH Highlights Coronavirus as Priority Over Medium Term

May 19, 2021

Department of Health

The health department’s most urgent focus over the medium term is combatting the Coronavirus through comprehensive local intervention programmes for which R9 billion has been allocated.

The health minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, confirmed this while delivering the department’s 2021/22 budget vote speech in parliament.

The minister added that the COVID-19 pandemic caused “significant health seeking deterrence and various results have pointed to this challenge”.

According to the minister, innovation is needed to close service delivery gaps.

“Chief amongst these include the establishment of the NHI Fund, implementing the recommendations of the Health Market Inquiry Report, building human resource capacity, quality improvement, expansion of health infrastructure, risk management, uprooting corruption and ensuring clean governance as well as building partnerships through social compact”, he said.

The minister declared that the implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI) remains one of government’s main objectives.

The National Health Insurance Bill was tabled in parliament in 2019.

The bill aims to:

• achieve universal access to quality health care services in the Republic in accordance with section 27 of the Constitution;
• establish a National Health Insurance Fund and to set out its powers, functions and governance structures;
• provide a framework for the strategic purchasing of health care services by the Fund on behalf of users;
• create mechanisms for the equitable, effective and efficient utilisation of the resources of the Fund to meet the health needs of the population;
• preclude or limit undesirable, unethical and unlawful practices in relation to the Fund and its users; and
• provide for matters connected herewith.

The bill flows from the NHI White Paper, published in June 2017.

It sets out government’s proposals to put a universal health coverage system in place.

The NHI aims to pool funds to provide access to quality and affordable health services for all South Africans based on their health needs and irrespective of their socio-economic status.

It is described as representing a substantial policy shift that will require a significant re-organisation of the current health care system, both private and public.

The vision is that health care should be regarded as a social investment and not subjected to market forces.

The NHI Fund will purchase health care services for all users who are registered with the Fund.

The minister pointed out that public hearings on the bill were held in all provinces at the end of 2019.

According to the minister, the public hearings “provided a platform for ordinary South Africans to be heard and contribute toward the shaping of the NHI Bill”.

He added that hearings in parliament on the bill were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and are set to resume in the near future.

Over the medium term, R7.5 billion has been allocated to the NHI unit to strengthen the system and contract service providers.

The minister pointed out that the NHI Fund will be set up as soon as the NHI Bill is passed.

Addressing parliament on the department’s budget vote, the deputy minister, Joe Phaahla, declared that the closure of alcohol sales during the lockdown contributed to the reduction of trauma and accidents.

The deputy minister added that prolonging the closure or limiting of alcohol and tobacco under the national disaster provisions was legally unsustainable.

“What we need to do urgently is to speed up the tabling of the Tobacco Amendment Bill and to finalise a Bill on control of Alcohol advertising sale”, he said.