President’s health blueprint put on hold until January

29 November 2018 - 10:28 By Tamar Kahn
Healthcare professionals had complained that the deadline was unworkable. Picture: BUSINESS DAY
Healthcare professionals had complained that the deadline was unworkable. Picture: BUSINESS DAY

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ambitions of getting a blueprint for fixing SA’s health system in the next two weeks has hit a stumbling block.

The Presidency has delayed the signing of this "health compact" until the end of January, spokesperson Khusela Diko confirmed. Healthcare professionals had complained that the deadline was unworkable.

The commitment to crafting this plan emerged from a two-day health summit convened by the president in late October, which drew 600 delegates from the public and private healthcare sector as well as labour and civil society organisations.

The gathering was cast as a high-level meeting to thrash out ideas for tackling the  crisis confronting SA’s public health system, which is grappling with corruption, staff shortages, and stock-outs of even basic medicines such as contraceptives.

However, there is growing disquiet and suspicion that the government is seeking to spin the event to create the impression that participants endorsed its National Health Insurance (NHI) plans.

NHI is its flagship policy for achieving universal health coverage, and its first piece of enabling legislation is due to be tabled in cabinet next week.

Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi told Radio 702 earlier in November that the summit had given NHI the green light.

"Everybody endorsed NHI and said it must go ahead," he said at the time.

Fazel Randera, a member of the Progressive Health Forum, said focus should be rather spent on multiple crises facing the health service, rather than the NHI.

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