NHI work founders on slow spending

04 November 2015 - 02:09 By Katharine Child

The Department of Health spent only 21% of a conditional grant for National Health Insurance pilot districts. Last week the parliamentary portfolio committee on health, discussing how the Department of Health had spent its budget in the 2014-2015 financial year, said it spent 83% of a R76- million grant aimed at improving medicine supply and providing primary health care.It also spent only 21% of a second grant of R388-million.The 2014-2015 under-expenditure equalled R305-million - up from a R291-million under-expenditure in the 2013-2014 financial year.The Department of Health has been promoting NHI since 2011 but is yet to detail how it will be implemented, funded or how it will work alongside private medical aids.Health Department spokesman Joe Maila said the underspending related to the fact that the department was having difficulty hiring doctors to work in the pilot areas - mostly in rural, under-resourced areas.The department, said Maila, had hired a recruitment company to try to fill the posts.It has hired 150 general practitioners in the past 12 months, bringing the number of doctors working in the pilot areas to 256.The department needs 600 doctors in the 10 pilot areas.Werksmans medical lawyer and an expert on NHI, Neil Kirby, said doctors needed more knowledge on what NHI was about if they were to be convinced to work for an NHI pilot project."All this cloak and daggers and mystery is not helping matters. A lot of PR needs to be done to explain to us what National Health Insurance is about. The confusion is complicating matters."Maila said: "The national department noted the slow spending of the NHI grant early in the financial year and proposed that the projects be expanded to areas outside of the pilot districts. Unfortunately the national Treasury did not approve this request."Since 2013 Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi has promised that a white paper on the NHI, which will explain, among other things, how the project would be financed, is "imminent".

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