Health Committee Hears That NHI Bill ‘Is A Must’

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PRETORIA, South Africa

The Portfolio Committee on Health was briefed by the Department of Health on its annual performance plan and budget for the 2019/20 financial year.

The committee said South Africa is known as one of the most unequal countries in the world and the health sector contributes to this perception. The committee indicated that the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has the silver bullet to change all that, by ensuring that rich and poor have equal access to healthcare.

Responding to questions, the Minister assured the committee that the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill is on its way to becoming a reality.

The committee asked about departmental monitoring mechanisms over the money that is allocated and transferred by the department to the provinces as conditional grants, so that such funds are used effectively to improve the patient experience. In addition, the committee questioned the monitoring of non-governmental organisations that receive funding from the department. Some committee members suggested that these organisations should be invited to appear before the committee

In its report, the department informed the committee that it has early warning systems in place for medical stock-outs, implemented in partnership with users. Some members of the committee expressed a different view that in some healthcare facilities, patients are sent away without medicine, due to shortage of stock. The committee wanted to know how the department is ensuring that this is avoided.

The committee asked about the current oncology backlog and the efforts to combat this challenge, taking into consideration issues in the public domain about Addington hospital.

In its comments, the committee suggested the digitisation of the health sector to deal with various challenges facing the department.

The committee welcomed the department’s announcement that it will present the Traditional Practitioners Bill, as this community has been marginalised.

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