Govt warned over 2022 NHI implementation – Solidarity

Movement says despite ongoing public participation process, officials believe their plans will be implemented without resistance

NHI: Government warned over 2022 NHI implementation

26 April 2022

Solidarity today warned the Deputy Director General of the Department of Health, Dr Nicholas Crisp, to provide clarity on his remarks that the first phase of National Health Insurance (NHI) would be implemented by the end of 2022. An application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) has been submitted to obtain this information. 

“It is alarming that although a public participation process is currently in progress, government officials believe their plans would be implemented without resistance. Moreover, I struggle to see how Dr Crisp can justify his words in the light of a constitutional mandate that protects our public participation processes,” Connie Mulder, Head of the Solidarity Research Institute (SRI) said. “In addition, it should also be pointed out that the Department merely refuses to provide us with the information requested in previous correspondence about what the department’s own Deputy Director General had uttered in a public forum”.

According to Solidarity, they are forced to take these steps and to consider further legal action should the Department not comply with this PAIA application. Protecting its members is part of Solidarity’s mandate and legislation that threatens to turn the health sector on its head impacts directly on their well-being in the workplace and it has a wider impact on the country as a whole. 

“The crux of the matter raised by this PAIA application is that there is a crucial lack of information, which merely increases the uncertainty and opposition. Pretending that their statements are harmless is typical of the government and government departments. However, this cannot be tolerated when more than 85% of the health workers who had participated in the SRI’s study showed complete opposition to the NHI,” Mulder stated. “This tendency of making irresponsible remarks, specifically declaring that the NHI would come into effect by the end of the year, and to then pretend that it was not what you said is problematic. It is problematic because the government does not even have enough money to fund the proposed NHI. It becomes even more problematic when simple questions such as how the department intends to finance it, are not answered either”.

Dr Crisp indicated in correspondence with Solidarity that his department is of the opinion that the NHI is still serving before Parliament and that the department can’t make announcements about its implementation before the parliamentary processes have been completed. However, Solidarity finds it perturbing that Dr Crisp then goes on to make public statements about the implementation of the NHI while the department does not comply with previous PAIA applications. 

“What the government is currently doing is undermining the public participation process and it is not adhering to its mandate of transparency. This proves once again that the government does not intend to comply with the wishes of its citizens or to act in their best interests,” Mulder said. “Blatant abuse of power without following established procedures is inadmissible and it threatens to erode our health system. If this PAIA application is not complied with, Solidarity will not hesitate to approach the courts and to proceed with litigation,” Mulder concluded.

Issued by Connie Mulder, Head: Solidarity Research Institute (SRI), 26 April 2022