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Many health services were neglected as Covid-19 prioritised, says Phaahla

01 June 2022 - 20:36
Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla. File photo.
Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla. File photo.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

The major focus for the health department in this financial year will be on the recovery of comprehensive health services, as some of these services took a back seat to the more pressing Covid-19 pandemic in the past few years.

Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla made this remark when he presented the health budget vote at the National Council of Provinces on Wednesday.

“We lost some of the pace as we focused on the pandemic. We have already agreed with all MECs that the key is to integrate the mitigation against Covid-19 into our comprehensive basket of services from primary health care levels upwards, including the vaccination programme, which must increasingly be part of our comprehensive services,” Phaahla said.

He said the focus on recovery will include catching up on delayed surgical procedures.

“We know there are many people who were due for a number of surgical procedures which were delayed for weeks and months, and some even for years, as a result of the pandemic occupying most of our focus in the health facilities.”

Phaahla said with the advent of Covid-19, the department lost some ground in finding people with HIV and TB to be put on treatment.

“We lost some of our targets as agreed with UNAIDS. We have even lost ground in as far as promotion of family planning, which has seen an explosion of teenage pregnancies,” Phaahla said.

Phaahla said as the department breathes a sigh of relief from acute pressure of Covid-19, it  wants to turn its attention to the improvement of the quality of service in its health facilities in line with the aspirations and targets of  the National Development Plan, the Presidential Health Summit of 2018, and the Health Compact signed in 2019 by various stakeholders. 

These include dealing with long queues, waiting times at clinics and hospitals, and dealing with congestion.

“Our budget allocation for this financial year 2022/23 is R64.5bn,  of which 86% or just around R55bn would be transferred to provinces as conditional grants to support a number of programmes such as the fight against HIV and Aids, TB and STI programmes,  non-communicable diseases, and support for human resources including medical interns and community service doctors.

“A significant amount will go towards the infrastructure of new facilities or replacement or refurbishment and maintenance of health facilities because we cannot talk of improvement of quality without addressing infrastructure and equipment at our health facilities,” Phaahla said.

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