Parliament, Saturday, 22 February 2020 – The Portfolio Committee on Health has heard yesterday that one of the main reasons behind the support of the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill by residents of the City of Tshwane is the promise of equal access to quality healthcare services for all.

The committee is conducting public hearings on the Bill in the Gauteng Province where the City of Tshwane’s Soshanguve Township hosted a successful first leg of the hearings yesterday.

According to the residents of Tshwane, universal healthcare coverage as per the World Health Organisation’s Alma Ata declaration of 1978 was unattainable presently in South Africa because of the two tier healthcare system currently in operation, hence the need for the immediate implementation of the NHI Fund.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Dr Sibogniseni Dhlomo, said that he was appreciative of all the views that were expressed by the participants at the hearings, and appealed for tolerance in the event of the expression of the divergent views about the NHI.

“We must always be conscious that we are naturally unique and therefore have different views on issues. We must listen to each other respectfully, especially to opposing views as we might learn something from the very opposing views,” stressed Dr Dhlomo.

The majority of participants highlighted their support for the Bill and some calling for its immediate implementation. One participant with Osteoporosis, suggested to the committee that she is hopeful that the NHI will bring better healthcare to her and to the other people with her condition.

Despite the support for the Bill, a number of people highlighted challenges they face on a daily basis when they visit public healthcare facilities in their communities. Some raised issues such as long queues, shortage of medication and dilapidated primary healthcare facilities.

Others raised the high cost of private healthcare and ever increasing premium rates of medical aid. “The pain of an inefficient healthcare system, both private and public, has been highlighted in the majority of the previous public hearings that the committee has conducted on the Bill.

“While the NHI is bound to resolve some of these challenges, there must be a concerted effort to ensure the provision of quality healthcare service across the board even when the NHI is incrementally rolled-out,” Dr Dhlomo said.

The committee noted the presence of the Gauteng’s MEC for Health, Dr Bandile Masuku at the hearings and is confident that strategies to fix areas of concern will be addressed.

Some of the participants raised concerns about the commodification of healthcare which undermines access especially for the poor.

Although the view for the support of the Bill was in the majority, however the views against the Bill were also highlighted, and were based on, among other things, the endemic corruption within the state run public health institutions.

Furthermore, those who opposed the Bill also raised their uncertainty about the funding model for the bill especially in light of the increasing bailouts to the state owned entities that continue to struggle to provide quality services.

The committee recommitted itself to listening to all the views presented, as it believes very strongly, that it is those views that will ultimately ensure that the Bill is strengthened and fit for purpose. Assuring the people at the end of the well-attended Soshanguve leg of the hearings in Gauteng, Dr Dhlomo said: “We have heard the people of Tshwane and as the committee, we will consider and deliberate on all the views expressed.”

The committee will today continue with hearings at the Chief Mogale City Hall in Kagiso.


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