There’s no question that universal health
coverage would be of benefit to the people of South Africa, says Executive
Director of Discovery Holdings, Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba.
Speaking at the 14th Annual
Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF) Southern African Conference in Cape Town on
Wednesday, Ntsaluba noted that a fully functioning system such as the proposed
National Health Insurance (NHI) model would mean that the cost of care is
realistic, and that services are of good quality and fully accessible to those
who need them.
Instead of debating whether it should or
shouldn’t happen, he said, the real question should be how to create a
sustainable healthcare system that balances affordability, quality and access. “How
do we design a system that’s fair to all parties, but which puts the patient at
Both Ntsaluba and Managing Director of the
BHF, Dr Humphrey Zokufa, agree that, in order to build a system that functions
optimally, there has to be coexistence of the private and public health
In addition, both role players feel that
team work should be implemented now already – long before the NHI plan
officially kicks into action. “If we don’t correct the
system now, it’s going to hit us hard in future,” Zokufa told media delegates
The four-day BHF conference explored many
of the challenges that South Africa is facing in terms of creating a unified
system. These include inadequate infrastructure, a shortage of health
professionals (especially doctors), the high cost of new technologies, an
increasing burden of disease, fragmentation of the industry (especially in
terms of funds), and inconsistent quality of care.
“The public and private sectors must focus
on how to address these challenges,” Ntsaluba continued, calling for a common
commitment from all healthcare parties to assist with the following:
- Increasing the output of health professionals by expanding training
- Establishing institutional capacity to produce leaders for a reformed
- Championing a national effort to stem the rising tide of non-communicable
diseases before they engulf us.
- Establishing South Africa as the global intellectual and clinical thought
leader on tackling the dual epidemics of HIV/Aids and TB.
- Mounting a sector-wide initiative to counter fraud.
- Using the opportunity of the Competition Commission inquiry to review
policies and regulations.
The hope is that the important goals raised
at the conference will now be put into practice.
The BHF aims to play a key role in fast-tracking
the process, especially where South Africa’s 92 public and private healthcare
funders are concerned. In addition, major legislative decisions will have to be
made by Government.