Two years ago Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi announced the 10 health districts chosen as part of a project to pilot the Government’s National Health Insurance (NHI) system in South Africa.

The pilots are intended to strengthen the performance of the public health system in preparation for phased implementation of the NHI, support implementation of service delivery interventions and improve health programmes, performance and access to services.

The 10 health districts are: Eden District in the Western Cape, Gert Sibande District in Mpumalanga, KK Kaunda District in the North West, Oliver Tambo District in the Eastern Cape, Pixley ka Seme District in the Northern Cape, Thabo Mofutsanyana District in the Free State, Tshwane District in Gauteng, Umgungundluovo District and Umzinyathi District in Kwazulu-Natal and Vhembe District in Limpopo. Although the districts vary in population size, it’s estimated that the pilots are serving 20% of the country’s population by improving healthcare services and facilities in the 10 districts.

Business plans for 2013-2014 were released for each of the districts detailing the goal of the pilot, the grant purpose and intended outcomes. The business plans also included information specific to the districts, such as demographic information regarding the district’s population, the percentage of uninsured, a detailed summary of the projects that are already underway and plans to be piloted in 2013-2014.

Provincial NHI Coordinators were appointed as full time NHI Project Managers to improve planning, monitoring and evaluation, reporting and coordination of NHI activities in each of the districts. The Provincial Departments of Health also established NHI pilot management teams and committees to oversee the implementation, co-ordination and regular monitoring and evaluation of the performance of the NHI pilot sites.

The National Treasury has allocated a R1 billion conditional grant for the pilots and additional money is coming from international funders, all of which is initially contributing to the refurbishment of health facilities, staff training and provision of equipment.  For the 2012-2013 fiscal year R150 million was allocated to improving district health facility management and hospital revenue collection and to raise the standard of patient care. It is estimated that costs could run up to R6 billion for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

eHealthNews will continue to follow the developments of the 10 pilot districts and report on their progress.

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