The residents of the communities under Nkomazi Local Municipality welcomed the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill during the public hearings conducted by the Portfolio Committee on Health at Nkomazi Local Municipality last Friday, 25 October 2019.

The committee has embarked on public hearings on the Bill to give South African citizens an opportunity to express their views on the Bill. Mpumalanga’s Nkomazi Local Municipality was the first stop for the committee’s hearings on the Bill.

Making opening remarks and explaining the purpose of the Bill in Nkomazi to a gathering of young and old people of Nkomazi, the Chairperson of the committee, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, said, the committee wanted to hear their views and suggestions on the Bill. He said: “We have come to you to listen to your views in the Bill. Express yourselves, we are here to listen.”

The people of Nokmazi told the committee in their oral submissions that they are frustrated by government’s failure to provide adequate healthcare services. “We are very frustrated by the failure of the government to provide us with health care services, yet the government is aware that our right to quality health care is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa,” said one of the residents.

The residents said they have heard about NHI, but are unable to reconcile a government-supported NHI with the same government that has failed to provide health through the current system. Citizens said there are only two ambulances responsible for the entire Nkomazi and people have to walk long distances to access the clinics. Hospitals are also in poor condition.

Throughout the hearings, the people asked why the government is failing to fix hospitals and ensure they are of good quality to deliver health services to the people. The people called upon the government to upgrade the healthcare services in the community and ensure that everyone has access to good quality healthcare.

The people also told the committee to ensure that NHI funds are managed by people with a credible track record in financial management, to ensure the provision of health care services on a sustainable basis.

The young people urged the committee to ensure that it accelerates the process of making the Bill into a law, as they saw employment opportunities in the implementation of NHI.

The people highlighted the problem of non-documented foreign nationals saying that Mpumalanga has a lot of undocumented people from Mozambique. They said the government must address that problem before the implementation of NHI. They were united in their support of the Bill, telling the committee that they are looking forward to its implementation.

Dr Dhlomo said the committee heard the issues raised by the people. The committee will create time to meet with the Mpumalanga provincial government MEC for health to discuss these issues further.

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 NHIF on behalf of users.

The Bill further aims to create mechanisms for equitable, effective and efficient utilisation of the resources of the NHIF to meet the health needs of the population, to preclude or limit undesirable, unethical and unlawful practices in relation to the NHIF and its users, and to provide for matters connected herewith.

Yoliswa Landu

28 October 2019