Cheap health care for domestic workers

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Johannesburg - Domestic workers will now be able to access nationwide private health care – at a cost of R170 to the employer.

DomestiCare – a new health-care scheme – was launched this month by the CareCross Health Group.

Now employers will be able to provide their helpers with occupational and private primary health care, which includes GP consultations, medicines, X-rays and blood tests. However, it will not include chronic medicine or hospitalisation.

Dr Reinder Nauta, managing director at CareCross Health, said: “In addition to immediate benefits of providing primary medical care to low-wage earners, there are long-term benefits for the economy. Keeping the country’s workforce healthy could dramatically reduce absenteeism and employee turnover, increase employee loyalty, improve productivity and increase employer satisfaction.”

But news of the new scheme has been met with scepticism by the SA Domestic Services and Allied Workers Union, which believe effective change in the system would not happen until the ministry of health devised a health-care plan for domestic workers.

“Four years ago, Old Mutual developed and launched a domestic pension fund at the Union Buildings, and then-deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka appealed to all employers to ‘show their workers they cared’ and reward them by taking out this policy,” the union’s provincial secretary, Myrtle Witbooi, said on Monday.

But things didn’t go as planned.

“Two years later, only 300 employers responded, prompting Old Mutual to stop this fund as they were losing out. This fund was out of the hard work of many progressive women’s organisations but it was not compulsory… it depended on the kindness of the employers.

“This is exactly what this new plan (DomestiCare) is all about, and it will never reach a million domestic workers. We need a plan from our Health Department that will include all workers,” she said.

Meanwhile, last year, the Department of Labour also said it would conduct a feasibility study on the establishment of a provident fund for domestic and farm workers by next month, but it is yet to be finalised.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan also mentioned the fund in last year’s budget speech.

When asked about the progress of the fund, the department’s spokesman, Page Boikanyo, said on Monday: “The department is currently engaging stakeholders in the sector, and once the consultation process has been finalised, a report with recommendations will be forwarded to the minister. The structure of the fund will only be discussed once the full investigation has been completed.”

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