NHI wrong medicine for healthcare ills - Patricia Kopane

DA MP says Minister Motsoaledi should take note of what the WCape's been able to achieve

NHI wrong medicine for healthcare ills

Note to editors: This is an extract of a speech delivered by DA Shadow Minister of Health, Patricia Kopane MP during today's debate on the Health budget vote, April 24 2012

Every South African deserves quality health care. A sick nation cannot be a successful nation. 

The provision of accessible, affordable, high-quality medical care is not only an economic imperative, but also a moral imperative. 

When I recently visited the Marantha Clinic in Brandfort in the Free State, I saw nurses and doctors dutifully trying to help the community of Majwemasweu, even though they had no water in their clinic. 

I was struck and inspired by the commitment and determination of the medical professionals at that clinic, even in the face of immense challenges. The workers there have done their utmost to make the best of their circumstances, but government has not kept up its side of the bargain - by providing the necessary infrastructure and support for effective service delivery.

Needless to say, there are countless other clinics and communities, like Majwemasweu, that we have left behind. One just has to look at Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, where operating theatres were recently flooded, and holes had to be dug in the theatre to drain water; or Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Tshwane, where cancer patients were shown away because radiation machines weren't working; or at Tembisa Hospital, where there was not enough linen to provide blankets or even sheets for patients to know that there are considerable problems in our health system.

So, now we come to one of the great questions of our time:  What shall we do to fix health care in South Africa?

I have the utmost respect for Minister Motsoaledi. Minister, I respect your commitment, your work ethic and I fully understand that you have approached this problem with the best of intentions.

But, let me say it clearly in this House today - the proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme is going to make life worse for those who are currently denied access to quality healthcare.


Firstly, because it is the poor who bear the brunt of the cost of the NHI. Initial policy documents indicated that the NHI will cost a minimum of R145 billion - many experts believe this budget is likely to be exceeded. The only way to pay for this will be to take money away from other programmes designed to alleviate and combat poverty.

Secondly, the NHI will create an inefficient and centralised health superstructure. If we are going to improve healthcare for all, we need less bureaucracy, not more.

Thirdly, NHI does not fix the real problem in our system, which is low quality health care provision. Instead, the Green Paper on NHI focuses on accessibility and finance.

The truth is that we already have universal accessibility and enough funding to run a first rate public health care system. 

Just look at what the Western Cape Health Department has achieved in the last three years:

  • The building of a world class hospital in Khayelitsha
  • Life expectancy in the Western Cape is currently 61.6 years for men and 67.9 years for women while the national average is 52.7 for men and 56.4 for women
  • Maternal mortality rates in the Western Cape stand at 98 deaths per 100,000 live births, while the national average is 140-160 deaths per 100,000 births.
  • Child mortality rates in the Western Cape are 38.8 deaths per 1,000 live births while the national average stands at 69 deaths per 1,000 births.
  • The Western Cape has an antenatal HIV prevalence rate of 18.5% while the national average is 30.2%.
  • The TB cure rate in the Western Cape is 79% while the national average is only 65%.

How has the Democratic Alliance (DA) achieved this in the Western Cape? We have rooted out corruption. We have introduced accountability in the system. We have spent public money efficiently on maintaining and building new infrastructure. We have created effective public private partnerships. We have promoted healthy lifestyles. We have upped skills training in the province.

Spending billions on a complicated system is the wrong medicine to treat the ills of our health system. If we just focus on getting the basics right, we can revolutionise healthcare in our country as we are doing in the Western Cape where we govern.

Issued by the DA, April 24 2012

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