Health minister says NHI ‘will make public and private hospitals the same’

This probably didn’t come out as the compliment Health Minister Zweli Mkhize was hoping for. The ANC cabinet member triumphantly announced on Wednesday that there would be “no distinction” between public and private hospitals once the National Health Insurance (NHI) is rolled out.

The much-maligned plans would ensure that all citizens received free healthcare upon entering any hospital in South Africa. While the intentions are good, the execution may be lacking. Critics have slammed NHI for threatening to cripple private health programmes, and point to its enormous costing and logistical challenges.

‘We’re going to see improvements’

However, Mkhize and his team remain undeterred. Speaking during a visit to a hospital in KwaZulu-Natal on New Year’s Day, the minister said that NHI would “bridge the gap” between public and private care.

“We are starting a new decade in which we will be instituting decisive actions in implementation of NHI. When it is fully implemented, there will be no distinction between public and private hospitals. We believe we are going to be seeing changes and improvements in the quality.”

“Our message to South Africans is to encourage good healthy living, particularly now when non-communicable diseases are on the rise. Individuals and communities are encouraged to take full responsibility of their health in partnership with the healthcare.”

Zweli Mkhize

When will NHI happen, and how much will it cost?

The rollout of the much-anticipated National Health Insurance (NHI) will require an additional R33-billion annually. This was revealed in the National Treasury’s adjusted estimates of the national expenditure document released at the tabling of the 2019 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) in October.

Furthermore, the controversial plan to nationalise healthcare won’t come into effect until the 2025/26 financial year. Provinces will receive a direct grant to contract health professionals in pilot NHI districts. This is currently funded through the NHI indirect grant.

Three regions in KZN – Ugu, uMzinyathi and uMkhanyakude – have all achieved this feat 90% of all people living with HIV know their status, 90% receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and and 90% are virally suppressed.

— Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) January 1, 2020

This content was originally published here.