Parliament, Tuesday, 28 January 2020 – The Portfolio Committee on Health has concluded the first of two public hearings on the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill in the Free State. The majority of those present expressed support for the Bill, but emphasised the importance of a well-functioning healthcare system, especially at primary healthcare level. Residents of Mangaung District believe that NHI is important for ensuring universal healthcare coverage, as per the World Health Organisation’s Alma Ata declaration of 1978.
The Chairperson of the Committee, Dr Sibogniseni Dhlomo, welcomed the head of the provincial Health Department to the hearings so that he could hear residents’ experiences of the healthcare system first-hand. “Many people highlighted daily challenges when they visit healthcare facilities. The committee has committed to hold the department accountable and, in the near future, the department will be invited to Cape Town to explain what they have done to resolve challenges,” Dr Dhlomo said.
The majority of the participants at the Bloemfontein public hearings highlighted the critical role of primary healthcare in ensuring the principles of equity and access, which can only be provided for by the clinics closest to the people. “The people highlighted that the challenges they face with primary healthcare facilities are the things that will enable the NHI. These things must be urgently resolved if the insurance is going to be a success,” Dr Dhlomo said.
These challenges include human resource shortages, especially of doctors and nurses, long queues at clinics, infrastructure development and maintenance backlogs, the cost of healthcare which limits access and insufficient ambulances.
There were some who expressed opposition to the Bill because of endemic corruption within state-run institutions, as well as the fear that staff shortages might be exacerbated by emigration, which could result from the implementation of NHI. There was also uncertainty about where funding for the Bill will come from, due to South Africa’s high unemployment rate and associated small tax revenue base.
The committee will tomorrow conclude the Free State public hearings in Sasolburg, at the Harry Gwala Multi-Purpose Centre starting at 16:30.
ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMUNICATION SERVICES ON BEHALF OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON HEALTH, DR SIBONGISENI DHLOMO
For media enquiries or interviews with the Chairperson, please contact the committee’s Media Officer:
Name: Malatswa Molepo (Mr)
Parliamentary Communication Services
Tel: 021 403 8438
Cell: 081 512 7920
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