‘Ramaphosa has finally found his pen’: Two unions welcome NHI signing

15 May 2024 - 12:21
By Khanyisile Ngcobo
Unions have welcomed the signing of the NHI Bill into law. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Yuriy Klochan Unions have welcomed the signing of the NHI Bill into law. Stock photo.

Despite continued criticism and looming legal challenges over implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill, the government has found support from some of South Africa's healthcare unions.

There has been huge reaction to news that President Cyril Ramaphosa is to sign the contentious bill into law on Wednesday afternoon.

While private healthcare providers and business have stated their intention to challenge the law in court, unions have celebrated and welcomed the signing.

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) said having NHI in place will address the unequal healthcare system.

“As Denosa we welcome that the president has found his pen to sign the NHI Bill into law because we've been consistent in our support for NHI for varied reasons. One of those is South Africa will do away with the legacy of two healthcare systems, private and public, and that at least the concept of equal access to universal healthcare coverage will be realised.

“We welcome that because we as healthcare workers [nurses] feel they do not give enough services to patients due to the shortage of resources and equipment, and the NHI as a financing system will enable healthcare professionals to work in an environment that has sufficient resources and equipment.”

The union conceded implementation of the bill was bound to have glitches and stressed the importance of starting it “gradually and in phases” rather than a complete overhaul of the system.

Adding to this was the Health and Allied Workers Indaba Trade Union (Haitu), which said the signing of the bill was long overdue.

Haitu welcomed the signing but also called for the banning of private healthcare.

"[This] so we can ensure every person is able to access the same quality of care. The NHI can only work effectively if the only option available to all of us is the NHI. Haitu is also calling for private hospitals and clinics to be nationalised.

“By nationalising these facilities we can speed up the process of allowing the public to access quality healthcare. No-one should die just because they are unable to access healthcare, it is a fundamental human right. The reality is workers in the public sector have been dealing with thousands of unnecessary deaths caused by a lack of resources.”

Haitu also had sharp criticism for “some media houses and their friends” who they said “are driving a false narrative about NHI to sabotage the rollout”. 

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union, another proponent of the bill, said it would comment after it is signed into law.