Parliament, Sunday, 01 December 2019 – The Portfolio Committee on Health concluded its second leg of the Eastern Cape public hearings on the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill today in Queenstown in the Chris Hani District Municipality, with the majority of participants pronouncing their support for the Bill.
The people of Queenstown and the nearby communities expressed their hope in the Bill like the people of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality yesterday where the majority of participants told the committee that they hoped that the government’s intervention through the NHI will assist in addressing some of the challenges faced by the people at health facilities in their communities.
The Chairperson of the committee, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, appreciated the contributions he described as valuable that were made by the people in both municipalities. “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.
The aim of the NHI Bill is to achieve universal access to quality healthcare services in South Africa, in accordance with section 27 of the Constitution. It further aims to establish a National Health Insurance Fund and to set out its powers, functions and governance structures to provide a framework for the strategic purchasing of healthcare services by the fund on behalf of its users, to create mechanisms for the equitable, effective and efficient utilisation of the resources of the fund to meet the health needs of the population and to preclude or limit undesirable, unethical and unlawful practices in relation to the fund and its users.
The popular view in both municipalities, Chris Hani District and Nelson Mandela Bay municipalities, was that while the Bill is necessary and ensures the provision of quality healthcare to all, it is needed more to those who are historically disadvantaged and who don’t have access currently to quality healthcare which is a constitutional right.
Some of the challenges that were highlighted in both municipalities 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.
In Queenstown there were various calls for the reintroduction of health inspectors that will ensure that healthcare facilities are up to standard and render quality healthcare. Some of the participants suggested that the time for discussions around the NHI is over, they called for implementation.
“The good thing is that the Department of Health is traveling 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,” said Dr Dhlomo.
Dr Dhlomo requested a detailed report from the Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Health on the issue of clinics without electricity in the Chris Hani District Municipality which many participants during the hearings complained about.
While the majority of the participants supported the Bill, there were those that emphasised their disapproval of the Bill basing their disapproval mainly on their concern about the governance of the NHI Fund.
They highlighted uncertainty over funding mechanism of the Fund and its vulnerability to corruption and fraud. “All these views will be considered by the committee and will form part of the broader deliberations towards the conclusion of the process,” Dr Dhlomo said.
The committee will today continue with the public hearings in Mthatha Town Hall in Mthatha, from 10:00 am.
ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMUNICATION SERVICES ON BEHALF OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON HEALTH, DR SIBONGISENI DHLOMO
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