The national Health Department will spend over R1.2 billion on re-vamping nursing colleges between now and 2014 in a plan to ready the country for the start of the proposed National Healthcare Insurance plan (NHI).
Yesterday, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told the Board of Healthcare Funders at their annual conference under way in the Drakensberg, that unless the country’s health-care system was overhauled and the R1.2bn spent on nursing colleges the proposed NHI would fail.
Limpopo and the Eastern Cape would get the lion’s share with over R340 million allocated to each, with KwaZulu-Natal the next highest at R167m.
A new King Edward VIII Hospital, with a new faculty of medicine, was on the cards for the province. This was in line with at least five other academic and tertiary hospitals set for construction in the country by 2020, Motsoaledi said.
The minister painted a bleak picture of the state of public health care in the country, despite the country shelling out the most per person on health in the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South African alliance (Brics). SA had the lowest return on that spend.
Close behind India, SA’s infant mortality figures was 62 babies in a thousand born live. It had the highest adult and pregnant mother deaths across all four countries. SA also has the highest HIV and TB prevalence among adults. China was lowest at 1 percent of its 1.3 |billion population.
Referring to a 2008 World Health Report, Motsoaledi agreed that centralised hospitals, with a strong curative focus rather than preventative focus and uncontrolled commercialism, were the root of failed health-care systems in the world.
“South Africa’s primary health-care system has to be re-engineered to focus on preventative measures like school health programmes which include immunisation, eyesight and hearing testing, and oral hygiene checks.”
Education and prevention of drugs and alcohol in schools and HIV/Aids counselling and testing had to be addressed.
He did not believe SA’s problem was the amount spent in the health-care sector, but rather the value the country was getting from that spend.
“The WHO recommends countries spend at least 5 percent of their GDP on health care.
“SA already spends 8.5 |percent on health. Despite |this, the health outcome remained poor when compared to similar middle-income countries across the globe.”
Listing at least 17 key “things to be done” to improve public health care in the country, Motsoaledi said spending on infrastructure was the priority followed by better equipped staff whose attitudes must improve.
Attention to cleanliness, the safety of patients, infection control and the elimination of long queues and inadequate drug stocks had to be addressed urgently.