Between 1347 and 1351‚ a medical catastrophe called the Plague wiped out half of Europe. Between 1918 and 1920‚ a medical catastrophe called Spanish flu killed up to 100 million people. And in 2018‚ a medical catastrophe called National Health Insurance is set to complete the circle by setting South Africa back centuries.
Outbreaks and plagues trigger panic and invite hyperbole‚ but I don’t think it is too great a stretch to suggest that the NHI‚ as outlined by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi‚ is a virulent legislative virus ready to unleash a form of economic Ebola on us from which we will never recover.
Universal free healthcare‚ is‚ of course‚ a magnificent ideal and something to which every country should aspire. This particular country‚ however‚ is also the one in which a highly urbanised province killed 143 patients and the health minister didn’t resign in disgrace and nobody went to jail. Instead‚ the MEC on whose watch the Life Esidimeni scandal happened was photographed with the president on one of his morning walks in March. Then again‚ I shouldn’t be surprised: shit does tend to float.
When Aaron Motsoaledi told us in April that healthcare in South Africa was not collapsing‚ he was telling the truth. In many parts of South Africa healthcare is not collapsing. Because it has already finished collapsing. It’s done. It’s over. Any set-up where you wait for a year for radiation therapy‚ as is the case in some hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal‚ is not a system. It is a ruin.
And now a government that can’t maintain a 1987 Ford Escort wants to introduce a new tax so it can buy a space shuttle it doesn’t know how to fly.
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