On November 24th Premier Helen Zille addressed the last Public Private Health Forum of the year at Lentegeur Hospital to promote partnerships between public and private entities.

The forum was administered by the Western Cape Department of Health (WC DoH) as a platform for business people, key role players and stakeholders in the health sector to meet and interact with provincial government.

Zille opened her address by stating the importance of interaction between the private and public sectors, reiterating that strong partnerships reinforce the province’s “better together” slogan. “The private sector’s focus is on profit, driving jobs and creating revenue and it is necessary for sustainability and the growth of the country. The role of the state is to protect the people’s rights and freedoms and extend opportunities to the private sector to fulfil needs that we can’t do ourselves. We need to find ways to work together and reduce the red tape to make it easier to work with the state,” said Zille.

Zille explained that most of the DoH’s budget is spent on treating preventable conditions, such as HIV infection and violence due to alcohol and drug abuse, and how this often results in the slow treatment of individuals who have conditions that they could not prevent. “We need to stop focusing on ‘healthcare’ and start creating a well society. At what point will we require individuals to take responsibility for their own wellness? It is essential that we harness behavioural economics to drive behavioural modification; such a small adaptation in policy could see big changes in patient outcomes and the burden on the public health service,” said Zille.

When asked about the use of eHealth to track individuals’ wellness efforts Zille reiterated the province’s commitment to eHealth and investment to roll out broadband to enable the use of technology to deliver healthcare. She said that the shortage in e-skills will be met when infrastructure meets the demand:  “when there is broadband, the skills will come.” She referred to the innovative triage app that is currently being used in Khayelitsha Hospital. “If you have a problem put it out there; young innovators are looking for problems to solve with an app,” said Zille.

Minister Thenus Botha closed the forum by saying that innovation is paramount to the state sector and unlocking the potential of the private sector is one of the biggest challenges facing the WC DoH. “NHI will rely on the co-responsibility between the public and private sectors; we need to unlock the potential to speed up the process.”

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