In spite of the poor turnout at the public hearings on the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill held in De Aar on Saturday, 02 November 2019, the Portfolio Committee on Health afforded the few members of the public who were in attendance the opportunity to submit their inputs on the Bill.

Chairperson of the committee Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said: “We are aware that this day has many social pleasures, our rugby team is in the process of representing our country in the Rugby World Cup final, which will be followed by the highly anticipated Telkom Knockout finals in Durban.” Dr Dhlomo thanked members of the public who took the time out to be at the hearings.

The poor state of health facilities in De Aar was a common message received from residents, who hope that the NHI will improve the provision of health care services in the community. The committee was told that the shortage of staff is but one of the challenges in the newly built hospital, which does not even have water. There are too few clinics, people have to wait an extremely long time to receive medical attention, and the long distances required to travel for medical attention is especially taxing on the elderly, the committee was told. Residents asked that the standard of facilities and the shortage of human resources in public hospitals be addressed in the Bill.

Traditional leaders from the Noupoort area said that they receive no recognition in their community and that people in the area who require medical assistance are often sent as far as Kimberly as there are no adequate medical services in the community.

The people thanked the committee for reaching them and explaining the Bill. The community of Brits Town said there is only one ambulance in operation. They also told the committee that many people in Brits Town are unable to apply for the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) grant, as the application also requires a medical report which is not easily obtainable in Brits Town.

“We bury at least 12 people every week because of the inadequate services in De Aar. People are given appointments at the clinic no matter how sick they are, only to be told that the attending doctor or nurse is not available on that day,” one resident said.

Another said: “The officials who are in the area need to do their work. They need to ensure that there is enough medication to see to the needs of the people who continue to blame ‘the government’ for the incompetence of officials. We hope that the NHI will address the shortage of medication, but also appoint nurses who actually want to service the people with dignity and grace.”

Dr Dhlomo thanked the people of De Aar for their participation in the hearings and for their oral submissions, which he described as valuable. He told the people that the committee will call upon the Department of Health to address the challenges highlighted by the people in their oral submissions. 

The Portfolio Committee on Health is conducting its public hearings on the National Health Insurance Bill in the Northern Cape this week. The objective of the Bill is to achieve universal access to quality health care services in South Africa in accordance with section 27 of the Constitution; to establish a National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and to set out its powers, functions and governance structures; and to provide a framework for the strategic purchasing of health care services by the fund on behalf of users.

Felicia Lombard
4 November 2019