The CEO at Profmed, Graham Anderson, explains why the key to a sustainable and free healthcare system in South Africa lies with an efficient public health sector.

The need for universal healthcare in the country has become a necessity as economic uncertainty and the rising cost of living continue to take their toll on South Africans.

While National Health Insurance (NHI) has the noble intension of creating a healthcare system which is not only affordable but accessible to every South African, it could heap additional unnecessary pressure on the South African taxpayer.

According to the White Paper, the funding of NHI will rely on various mandatory pre-payment sources, primarily based on general taxes.

While NHI is striving to provide affordable healthcare to every South African, the financial implications on the taxpayer could be extremely detrimental. We believe that there is sufficient funding available in the public health sector to provide quality healthcare at no cost to the unemployed and those living under the poverty line.

With over 4,200 public health facilities in South Africa, the sector is more than capable in ensuring free quality healthcare for all. When the public healthcare sector is running efficiently and providing the correct level of service and care it will be able to deliver primary healthcare to the South African public.

Despite the general perception that the quality of healthcare provided by public institutions is lacking, there are various public health institutions that are able to currently provide quality healthcare.

There are centres of excellence which attract people who can afford medical schemes.  Examples include the burns unit at Chris Hani Baragwaneth, in Gauteng and the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, in the Western Cape.

If the public health sector is running effectively enough, additional services can be added and therefore create a natural progression to full social health insurance over time. It should essentially begin by covering primary healthcare as well as preventative benefits, like screening for high blood pressure, blood sugar and other health issues. This will see medical schemes working in tandem with NHI which will save the consumer money by bringing down consumer contributions.

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