Speaking at the opening of the annual Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF) Conference in Cape Town, Acting Managing Director, BHF Southern Africa, Dr Clarence Mini, urged the National Department of Health (NDoH) to collaborate and leverage existing resources within the private sector to drive SA’s journey to achieving universal health coverage.

Dr Mini said the NDoH should consider partnerships with the private sector in implementing National Health Insurance (NHI) and to utilise the current available resources in private healthcare to support and help drive successful implementation.

“As we look ahead at the pending implementation of NHI, as with any change, the journey towards universal healthcare will present new challenges. However, the promise of partnership, political will and good leadership might make the journey ahead a lot easier than we have all imagined,” said Dr Mini.

Cabinet recently approved the revised policy document on NHI, setting SA on course to provide universal health coverage.

“Last month’s approval of the NHI White Paper by cabinet represents a substantial policy shift that will necessitate a massive reorganisation of our healthcare, both private and public, and this will present a challenge to both the public and private healthcare sectors in South Africa,” said Executive Deputy Mayor of Cape Town, Ian Douglas Neilson.

“Over the years, we have learnt that we will not succeed in achieving anything on our own, and we have to work in partnership with our communities, NPOs, and the private sector. Only sustained, successful partnerships will enable South Africa to overcome the many challenges of our rapidly urbanising environment, and will in turn ensure that we become more resilient,” continued Neilson.

“When discussions on NHI matured in 2008, BHF members took a decision to consciously support government in implementing NHI. At that time, many people were not happy about the idea, and we supported NHI at a time when it was not favourable to support it, being fully aware that if the public and private sectors collaborate, we can make a success out of the NHI system and can begin to draw learnings for the rest of the Southern Africa region,” added Dr Mini.

Also speaking at the conference, Director General at the NDoH, Malebona Matsoso, outlined some of the elements of NHI which includes plans for the public and private healthcare sector.

“The plan is to create an interim structure for  NHI, where we have a CEO who runs the system with a team of people. Our aim is to upskill, reskill and invest in our people to get them ready for NHI. This will require conscious efforts from academic institutions as well, as they would have to deliver on this capacity,” said Matsoso.

Matsoso added that the government needs to identify areas where it can consolidate various schemes, a process that will involve schemes. The aim is to create a structure that involves the NDoH, the medical scheme industry, and the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) in order to ensure that this reform is a success.

In his closing remarks, Dr Mini said that the NDoH must look to the private sector for resourcing and utilise the already available resources in the private sector for the CEO positions that would be created for NHI. He cautioned that NHI should not be politicised, but should be a collaborative effort that seeks to achieve the vision set by the United Nations to ensure that all people have access to healthcare, as a necessary human right.

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