The majority of participants in the public hearings on the National Health Insurance (Bill) in New Brighton in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality agreed that the National Health Insurance Fund is necessary to achieve the objective of the Universal Health Coverage to all.  

The Universal Healthcare Coverage is a declaration by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that considers health as a fundamental human right as encapsulated in the Health for All agenda set by the WHO’s Alma Ata declaration of 1978.

This and other views on the Bill were highlighted by the residents of Port Elizabeth and the nearby communities at Nangoza Jebe Hall in New Brighton during the Portfolio Committee on Health’s public hearings in the Eastern Cape province recently.

Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality’s New Brighton Township hosted the first leg of the public hearings on the Bill in the Eastern Cape province. The municipality incorporates Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and Dispatch.

The committee has embarked on a nationwide public participation process to obtain views of the people on the NHI Bill. The people in all the provinces where the committee has conducted public hearings on the Bill have supported the Bill.

They expressed their optimism that the NHI is going to deliver the quality healthcare services that are envisaged in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

The main target set by the WHO declaration calls on governments, international organisations and the world community at large to work towards the attainment of the coverage to all the peoples of the world by the year 2000, of a level of health that will permit them to lead socially and economically productive lives.

The Chairperson of the committee, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, appreciated the contributions he described as “valuable” that were made by the people of Port Elizabeth. “We have noted that the majority of participants are in support of the Bill. However, they raised challenges that confront the current system and which they said need to be addressed to make the NHI a success,” Dr Dhlomo said.

Making an oral submission during the hearings, Mr Mkhawuleli Manegi said the NHI is important because it will bring the cost of healthcare down, especially because the fund can negotiate better prices for the people from suppliers using the leverage of economies of scale. He said: “I see this Bill as an equaliser that will ensure access for all, especially those that have been and are still disadvantaged,” Mr Manegi said.

Ms Florence Sthunzi and Ms Celestene Boysen highlighted that they were hopeful that the NHI will address some of the challenges faced in the healthcare sector currently. They said the challenges included the lack of capacity in clinics and hospitals, very limited hours of service at clinics, long queues, poor attitude displayed by healthcare workers towards patients at health facilities, shortage of doctors and medicines, unavailability of ambulances, as well as dilapidated clinics that need urgent attention.

“The good thing is that the Department of Health is travelling with us and has heard the challenges raised by the people. It must commit itself to resolving those challenges as these are enablers of the NHI,” Dr Dhlomo said.

By Malatswa Molepo
4 December 2019