File picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA)

No plan to nationalise private hospitals in wake of coronavirus

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Mar 19, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - Minerals Council says it is ready to use wards in mine hospitals for Covid-19 patients.

South Africa's big three hospital groups are Netcare, the Life Healthcare Group and Mediclinic Southern Africa, which is a division of Mediclinic International.

Department of Health spokesperson Popo Maja said in an interview with Business Report on Wednesday that the government was not looking to nationalise private hospitals because of the epidemic.

“There is a way we can work with the private sector if we need to access their facilities. We are not considering the nationalisation of private hospitals at all. Whenever there is an outbreak, private hospitals are willing to work with us to provide beds in hospitals when we have emergencies. They are willing to work with us,” Maja said.

After the Spanish government moved on Monday to nationalise all private hospitals and healthcare providers as the country grappled to arrest the spread of the virus, speculation has arisen whether this could happen in South Africa.

Spain has the second most infections in Europe, at about 11178, after Italy, which has about 31506.

Anchen Laubscher, a group medical director of Netcare, said the group was committed to offering support to the Department of Health and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

“Discussions are taking place between the private hospitals and the Department of Health regarding all aspects of managing the Covid-19 pandemic,” Laubscher said, adding that it was premature to answer whether private hospitals would be nationalised.

“All Covid-19 patients requiring hospitalisation are admitted to the appropriate facility with the authorisation and full knowledge of the department. We stand ready to assist the national and provincial departments of health wherever we can,” Laubscher said.

The Hospital Association of South Africa (Hasa) said it was premature to talk about nationalising private hospitals.

Mark Peach, a spokesperson for Hasa, which represents the owners and managers of most of South Africa’s private sector hospital beds, said the admission rate for the virus was low and there had been no deaths yet in South Africa.

“According to the World Health Organisation, 85percent of cases will not be admitted and only 5percent will be admitted. In South Africa, we are nowhere near the infection rate of Spain or Italy. It is too early to talk about the trajectory of the infection,” Peach said.

Peach said the organisation had been in constant talks with the public sector since the coronavirus was announced late last year.

“Discussions to nationalise private hospitals were not on the table. Private sector hospitals are already helping in certain respects - for example, in the tracking of cases,” Peach said.


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