Updated 23 August 2013

Discovery backs plan for universal health coverage

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.


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 the centre?”

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 sectors.

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 last week.

Many challenges

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 platforms.
  • Establishing institutional capacity to produce leaders for a reformed health system.
  • 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.



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