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JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s foremost black-owned and managed healthcare administrator, Thebemed Medical Scheme, was yesterday placed under provisional curatorship by the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) after the company ran into financial hardships.

Sipho Kabane, chief executive and registrar of CMS, said the decision followed "persistent" financial difficulties by the company.

“Because of the scheme’s financial difficulties and its failure to maintain the minimum statutory solvency ratio of 25percent, as set out in regulation 29(2) of Medical Schemes Act, Ian Fleming has been appointed as the provisional curator of Thebe Medical scheme until such time that it can maintain the minimum statutory solvency ratio,” Kabane said.

“The curator will assume control of the business of the scheme in order ensure proper corporate governance and attend to improving the solvency ratio of the scheme. There is therefore no need for any concern on the part of Thebemed members and service providers regarding the day-to-day operations of the scheme.”

As a Level 1 BBB EE contributor, Thebemed is the most black-empowered administrator in the country.

Thebemed is owned Thebe Investment Corporation (TIC). TIC is regarded as one of the leading black economic empowerment firms with an investment portfolio of assets worth over R6billion including investments in blue chip companies like Shell and Vodacom.

The group was founded in 1992 as a wholly owned entity of the Batho-Batho Trust established by anti-apartheid stalwarts Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Enos Mabuza and Beyers Naudé. TIC could not be reached for comment.

The CMS will continue to exercise statutory oversight regarding the affairs of the medical schemes, and to ensure that the interests of members of medical schemes are protected at all times. Small medical schemes are set to come under further pressure with the introduction of the contentious National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme. There are 29 medical schemes in the country with fewer than 6000 members, and 26 of those are closed schemes, restricted to certain companies or industry sectors.

Ahmed Banderker, AfroCentric's chief executive, said he hoped that sanity would prevail for a collaborative approach to achieve a calm, cogent, phased introduction of a health system that achieves universal coverage.

“Given the current economic climate, the potential economic and employment impact of the NHI Bill on us as an employer, our staff and the lives we administer will remain of careful interest to us,” Banderker said.

“We are certain that numerous opportunities will continue to exist for the development, testing and implementation of mutually beneficial and innovative healthcare delivery models and solutions through partnership.”

AfroCentric owns health companies such as Medscheme, medicines distributor Pharmacy Direct and drug manufacturer Activo.