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Pretoria - Creating a bridge between the country’s health sector haves and have-nots, and sharing skills and resources is key in the successful implementation of the government’s National Health Insurance (NHI).

To create a platform to meet the needs of the larger population and take on the burden of disease which has almost crippled the public health sector would require precise planning and strategy, speakers told a seminar on the NHI and the health needs of the poor, held at the weekend.

Speakers at the Albertina Sisulu Executive Leadership in Health policy seminar agreed the NHI was important to improve the country’s social and health status.

The government would not be able to implement it without the help of the private sector, they said.

The stakeholders noted areas of concern, with Professor Charles Honkolo of the Human Sciences Research Council saying the pooling of resources and their channelling to areas of the greatest need was of great importance.

“All monies meant for the project need to be accounted for, and how those resources will be used,” Honkolo said.

Because the NHI was part of the National Development Plan it would play an important role in being a social transformation policy which would link health with other national sectors.

Discovery Health’s executive director Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba said health in the South African context played a key role in the restoration of dignity of the people.

It also contributed to social cohesion, so the implementation of the NHI could not be taken lightly, he said.

Allowing the country’s dual system of health to settle in and entrench itself had been a fundamental mistake, he said.

“It’s okay to have both systems, but the failure to create bridgeheads led to the growth of one and the failure of the other,” Ntsaluba said.

“We need to get back to the basics and put petty squabbles aside,” he added.

Hospital Association of SA chief executive Dr Dumisani Bomela spoke about the need to widen access to facilities and the expertise found in private health facilities.

He said there was a need to properly prepare the service delivery platform.

The involvement of private health needed to be clearly defined, Bomela said, adding that they were aware of the need to share what they had with both the public and the government.

“Besides availing specialists we must share training of nursing staff, medical practitioners and specialists,” he said.

Bomela said systematic cost drivers for hospital groups posed a challenge.

“However, there will need to be sacrifice for the common purpose by someone, somewhere.”

He said as a start, the government needed to acknowledge that it could not do this alone.

Also, that it could not handle the responsibility of public health on its own, and private hospitals had to accept that they had a role to play in the survival of the public sector.

Section 27 cautioned the government to be careful as it drove the mechanism of the NHI forward, saying the public sector was still fraught with infrastructural problems, staff shortages and a system which failed to deliver on basic necessities. - Pretoria News