Access to healthcare will be a problem in responding to coronavirus pandemic as rural development and healthcare facilities are at their worst stage. Photo: Rizek Abdeljawad/Xinhua/IANS
Access to healthcare will be a problem in responding to coronavirus pandemic as rural development and healthcare facilities are at their worst stage. Photo: Rizek Abdeljawad/Xinhua/IANS

COVID-19: Why South Africa must focus on affordable and high-quality access to healthcare

By Miyelani Mkhabela Time of article published Mar 17, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG – COVID-19 must be mitigated not to deeply spread and affect businesses, investors funds and society’s health in South Africa. Access to healthcare will be a problem for South Africa in responding to coronavirus pandemic as rural development and healthcare facilities are at their worst stage at the moment.

The reasons why South Africa must focus on affordable and high-quality access to healthcare are all too clear.

In spite of South Africa’s competitiveness regaining momentum and climbs seven places to 60th. Beyond these established strengths, health conditions are ranked lower at  (118th), based on WEF GCR 2019, which is not attractive to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic. We need to focus on implementing our plans to establish a pharmaceutical manufacturing company to reduce unnecessary imports of pharmaceutical products to our country, we have plans and these plans need to be quickly be implemented.

The government adaptability to change (39.6, 100th) is also below par, this ranking on adaptability will need to be improved so we proactively evaluate future challenges and provide solutions beforehand. I expected the President to guide listed companies with business continuity management, to request potential listed companies that stand a high risk to be affected to give their employees a week or two weeks break while coming with solutions on how to better manage the virus impact to our the economy and our communities, as the number is increasing exponentially on a daily basis. Proactive operations management approach is ideally my preference instead of reactive operations management approaches, as it is too expensive to react.

Businesses face the increasing challenge of managing complex operations across multiple entities as they integrate business partners, suppliers, and even competitors into an extended enterprise. The need for an effective risk reduction and business continuity management (BCM) programs are needed to proactively manage the spread of coronavirus pandemic in 2020. 

Business continuity management (BCM)  advance plans and other preparations of an organization to maintaining business functions or quickly resuming after a disaster needs to be executed to assess our preparedness to handle catastrophes such as Coronavirus disease. Not all companies will manage to adapt to business continuity but proactive operational planning for the next 45 days will be beneficial to companies that adapted systems and processes of BCM.

Millions of people spend at least 10 percent or more, of their household budgets on health expenses for themselves, a sick child or other family members, sending a large number of those people into extreme poverty. While this coronavirus is an urgent matter to South Africa, sustainable access to care is also a severe issue on our healthcare services which has a direct link with the productivity of the nation.

Business owners and investors might be safe but government employees and corporate workers are in contact and not safe at all and corporate South Africa must prepare for coronavirus pandemic and continue to operate mainly through advance technological systems and identify staffing arrangements, such as telecommuting, strategic business unit succession planning and cross-skilling; protect the health of staff; develop a communications strategy for employees, customers and suppliers.

On Sunday, Singapore also announced further measures to reduce importation of coronavirus infections, advising residents to defer all non-essential travel abroad to reduce their risks of contracting the virus during this coronavirus pandemic. The World Economic Forum (WEF) ranks Singapore’s healthcare the highest, ranking first, but the Coronavirus pandemic can also have a huge impact to them, then we cannot imagine the impact it can have to South Africa, which ranks 118 in healthcare, based on the WEF reports 2019. The advisory, which took immediate effect, will apply for 30 days and is subject to further review.

We expect leadership from the South African government and private sector to be work together in coming with solutions to address these challenges. We must borrow social principles when natural and health challenges attack our society and introduce free treatments for the sake of our people. South African health budget needs a boost to assist in making coronavirus testing to be free for all people as we can lose so many people, mainly the working class with lower incomes and unemployed youth sitting at 60%, how can they get help as the treatment is about R1 200 to R1 500 per tasting.

National Healthcare structural reforms are needed to boost our competitiveness and proactive systems for catastrophic health problems that can easily take the life of our people. All South African corporates must be requested to contribute to a fund that will be set by the president to be used for the Coronavirus outbreak and a team of professionals can assist in ensuring that all committed funds are quickly made available to the set fund, as listed companies will be affected more because of this disease as well and we have seen global stocks and domestic stocks dropping with about 10 percent, while it’s worse with stocks such as Sasol that already wiped out with more than 85 percent value of their stock and South African equities underperformed for the past four years.

The WEF Davos 2020 theme was focused on stakeholder capitalism while the past years focused on shared growth and value principles, to build a sustainable future, and we believe corporate executives will reflect on the impact of the coronavirus and pledge to the fund that the president will set up. We must not.

“One concern we have with cases such as the UK and Switzerland isn’t just about the numbers. It is that these countries have abandoned any measure to contain or restrain the virus,” Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said at a press briefing Sunday. “If there’s no attempt to contain, we estimate the number of cases in these countries to rise significantly in the coming days and weeks.” 

And I believe when the South African government and the private sector don’t introduce business continuity management (BCM), for workers to work remotely and industries that are in production to also come with measures that will be the pro-working class, not investors, for the sake of health for all our people. As part of our values, we must prioritize people over profits, as we cannot recover multiple deaths but companies that were proactive, will manage to introduce the BCM systems.

As businesses transition into the digital ecosystem, preparing for events like earthquakes, tsunamis, catastrophic healthcare such as Coronavirus and nuclear disasters become very important. How prepared a company is will determine if it can restart operations. All corporates are advised about protecting their businesses from these disasters.

Studies have shown that 40 percent of businesses struck by a serious disaster never resume operations, says Doughty. What's more, he adds, over  25 percent of those that do manage to reopen their doors again are so weakened that they close down permanently within three years. In business continuity planning, Doughty brings together contributions from disaster planning practitioners, consultants, and researchers to present a best practices-based approach to anticipating and managing major business disruptions.

The financial world is reeling. After the most dramatic week since the financial crisis, investors are counting their losses while economists fear the world economy risks a painful recession this 2020 financial year. Geopolitics in Oil and Gas needs to be mitigated not to cause additional trade tensions for Saudi Arabia and the United States as it can deeply influence the recession anticipated in 2020, we, therefore, suggest that global leaders mainly from the G8 and G20 nations, be mindful when leading their nations to reduce geopolitics, which continues to affect global stocks and macroeconomic stability, mainly in emerging markets such as South Africa and the rest of Africa markets.

The European Central Bank launched a packet of fiscal measures aimed at shielding the eurozone economy from the fallout of the coronavirus. It loosened monetary policy further, with €120 billion worth of bond purchases and more cheap loans for banks. What will be our South African response to these measures, to assist our listed companies and small businesses that are also limping? We have learned so hard with the results of the 2008 global financial crisis and we need to mitigate these global disasters in time.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange lost almost 10 percent of its value on Thursday, March 12, which is the worst crash since 1997. The All Share Index ended the day 9.7 percent lower. But it is not the only stock exchange that has been hit by coronavirus fears. In London, the FTSE fell by 10 percent, the biggest fall since 1987 because of rising concerns over the economic impact of the coronavirus. The passiveness in responding to the coronavirus by European nations might impact deeply to their listed companies and unlisted investments.

We need to also come with measures to people over 70 years to self-isolate for up to 30 days, which can be reviewed, to protect themselves from the risk of contracting coronavirus.

South Africa is part of the global economy, and as the EU and the US are affected, we will be affected at the same impact or above those nations depending on our exposure levels. Business and investors in the South African markets are affected and it will continue to deepen as the past four years, equities underperformance at our South African markets. The workers might also lose more jobs as most companies might fail to recover after this Coronavirus impact and Small businesses are likely to be impacted the most as they don’t have better systems for complexity management and business continuity management.

South African hybrid economy is expected to be affected the most in Africa, looking at it’s global economic connectedness with so many nations that are highly affected by Coronavirus, while we remain with Eskom crisis that needs our attention the quickest and closing the state capture commission, to quickly implement it’s recommendations and rebuild the economy.

We appreciate all corporates and churches that introduced business continuity management as a way to curb the Coronavirus pandemic not to spread to many people and communities. Hi yona ndlela yiriyoxe ku tisa ku antswisa healthcare ya tiko ra Africa dzonga.

Recommendations:

  1. South Africa must prioritize healthcare investments to improve the WEF global competitiveness on healthcare category from 118 to at least 80 ranking in the next two to three years; 
  2. Businesses are advised to implement their business continuity management policies; 
  3. The South African public and private sector must create a Coronavirus impact fund as an intervention to address the challenge, The president might need to quickly speak with our listed companies to commit funds before it’s too late, and private sector can nominate their representative to assist in managing the fund; 
  4. Listed companies and Small Medium Enterprises needs to have strategic planning reviews to better mitigate the anticipated global recession for 2020; 
  5. National Department of Health must lead in guiding religious groups that might not understand the impact of the disease , to respect national communiques by the president and the minister of health to avoid conflicting information dissemination to communities, mainly in rural areas; 
  6. Parents can use their discretion to withdraw their kids from schools where parents travel abroad more often.

All people who came back from mainly European countries, United States and China are mixed with everyone, while workers who can work from home can do so to reduce the spread. Lastly, the public and private sector must quickly solve economic and environmental problems as they happen, to mitigate the impact it can possibly have to our nation.

Miyelani Mkhabela is a Director and Economic Strategist at Antswisa Transaction Advisory Services, contactable at: [email protected] and Twitter:@miyelani_hei

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