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Health Committee Rejects National Health Amendment Bill

March 23, 2021

Parliament

The portfolio committee on health has unanimously decided that it cannot support the National Health Amendment Bill.

The private member’s bill, drawn up by Dr Suzan Thembekwayo of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), was tabled in parliament in September 2018.

It lapsed at the end of the 5th parliament but was revived by the national assembly in October 2019.

The bill seeks to:


• amend the National Health Act, 2003, so as to provide for clinics to operate and provide health services 24 hours a day and seven days a week; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.

According to the bill’s memorandum, millions of South Africans are denied their right to access to health services due to an insufficient number of health facilities open after hours.

The EFF’s policy is that all clinics in the public sector must operate and provide health services 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

In a statement, the committee indicated that committee members hold the view that, in the current situation, the bill is undesirable.

“The committee is of the opinion that there are primary healthcare facilities that are already operating for 24 hours and that are not legislated for.

Furthermore, the committee is currently busy with the processing of the National Health Insurance Bill, which might also have an impact on the proposed legislation. Of concern to the committee, is that the country is currently under financial stress and therefore the department would struggle to adjust the current budget against the health requirements as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

According to the committee, the proposed legislation will have massive financial implications for the health department and the ministry and the “quantification of costs must be done before the Bill could be considered”.

Meanwhile, the department recently briefed the select committee on health and social services on its Annual Performance Plan for 2021/22.

In terms of strengthening the management of medico-legal cases in the health system, reference was made to the State Liability Amendment Bill currently before the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services.

The bill was tabled in parliament in May 2018.

The explanatory summary indicated that the bill seeks to amend the State Liability Act of 1957 so as to provide for structured settlements for the satisfaction of claims against the State as a result of wrongful medical treatment of persons by servants of the State.

Speaking during his budget vote speech in parliament in May 2018, the former justice and correctional services minister, Michael Masutha, declared that the proposed amendments will seek to address widespread abuse and corruption within the medico-legal claims arena.

The department also pointed out that the plan is to implement a policy and legal framework to manage medico-legal claims in South Africa in 2022.

The department also aims to set up the National Health Insurance Fund as a public entity in the 2022/23 financial year.

In Government Gazette 44278, the department republished the notice on adjusted fees payable by medical schemes to brokers.

The health department originally announced the adjustment in Gazette 44257 in terms of the Medical Schemes Act.

Section 65 of the act focuses on broker services and commission.

Regulation 28(2)(a) deals with the maximum amount payable to a broker by a medical scheme for new members and the provision of ongoing service or advice to members.

The adjusted fee is set at R101.91 plus VAT with effect from 1 January 2021.

The notice has been corrected to reflect the department as the originator.