SA health care system leaves out 84%: Motsoaledi

12 September 2013 - 12:37 By Sapa
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. File photo.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. File photo.

South Africa's health care system fails to provide quality care for the majority of citizens, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said at a business briefing on Thursday.

"In South Africa, costly private health care for the privileged few [provides for] 16 percent [of the population]," he said.

The remaining 84% had to make do with "second rate" care, while in the United States the situation was reversed.

"... Meaning their [the US's] health care system has thrown out 16% of the population, whereas in South Africa the health care system is throwing out 84% of the population," he said in a live broadcast on SABC2.

The proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) system sought to rectify this, in line with citizens' right to access affordable, good quality health care irrespective of socio-economic status.

Motsoaledi said the name was problematic because "the 'insurance' part does not reflect exactly what we want to achieve".

Rather, it should be approached as "universal health coverage".

"Many South Africans wrongly believe something is only wrong in our country, as far as health care is concerned."

Whereas, health care faced significant problems globally.

These included rising costs and poor access to generic medications, an overemphasis on cure instead of prevention, and insufficient regulatory control.

Regulation in private health care had two facets; the funders being medical aid schemes and the health care providers.

In terms of funders, Motsoaledi said a lack of regulation meant he could not intervene as health minister.

"If you come to me and say, 'they charged me R50 000 for a small operation', there is nothing I can absolutely do, even though I know very obviously they are ripping you, because there is no regulation."

The design of most health care systems favoured the rich and punished the poor, which threatened sub-Saharan Africa's ability to achieve the United Nations' health-related Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

"Unless there is good quality in public health care, and unless the costs are brought down in private health care, this whole concept of universal health care will never find leverage in our country."

Motsoaledi still had one arm in a sling on Thursday, after undergoing surgery at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria last month.