Parliament, Wednesday, 5 February 2020 – The majority of the West Coast residents who attended yesterday’s public hearings on the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill told the Portfolio Committee on Health that the NHI is much needed in the West Coast District.

The West Coast District Municipality hosted the first leg of the public hearings on the Bill in the Western Cape where the residents, although they highlighted their frustration with the current healthcare system which fails to assist them, called for speedy implementation of the NHI.

The committee was told that the area has a large population of farmworkers who cannot afford the expensive profit-driven medical aid schemes. They also told the committee that they are turned away at times at the usually overcrowded public hospitals on the grounds of the unavailability of nurses, and closing time.

One of the oral submissions received called for measures of prevention of diseases to be enshrined in the Bill. The committee was told that this aims to look not only at the point of care but at measures of preventing illnesses such as diabetes and tuberculosis which in the long run, could save money that would otherwise have been spent on treating the many patients with these illnesses.

Like in other provinces, the people of the West Coast told the committee about the bad reception they receive from the healthcare officials at public hospitals and clinics. The residents said, to be told “go home and come back the following day” at clinics and hospitals, is cruelty as the pain of illness cannot be ordered to wait until tomorrow.

Based on the fact that the current public healthcare system fails to provide services to the people; the people, old and young, told the committee that the NHI promises to be a reliable replacement of the current crumbling public healthcare system.

One of the medical experts who made an oral submission in the public hearings welcomed the Bill and said the envisaged system is going to address the fragmented funding model of the current system. The medical expert also raised a number of concerns, and one of those concerns was that the NHI can widen the gap between rural and urban health facilities, if rural health facilities are unable to meet the accredited operating standards as they are spelt out in the Bill.

The Chairperson of the committee, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, advised the officials of the national and provincial departments of health who attended the public hearings to note the challenges that the residents of the West Coast District mentioned during the public hearings. On behalf of the committee, Dr Dhlomo appreciated and thanked the residents for their valuable contributions that he said will strengthen the Bill. Furthermore, he assured the residents that their oral and written submissions will be considered by the committee at an appropriate time in Parliament.


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