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Reforms urgently needed to give everyone access to a quality healthcare system

Patient at the waiting area in Khayelitsha District Hospital. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency(ANA)

Patient at the waiting area in Khayelitsha District Hospital. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jun 21, 2022

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Cape Town - The constitutional right to access health care is not a reality for many, with health system reforms urgently needed to see this realised.

The resounding call was made during the virtual launch yesterday of a new research report by Concentric Alliance and Section27 titled Health Reform: Perspectives and Proposals.

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During 2020, Concentric Alliance and Section27 interviewed 33 representatives from the national and provincial health departments, health regulators, medical schemes, healthcare workers, trade unions, private hospital groups, public health academia, health civil society, the pharmaceutical industry and the government.

The report found that health system reform efforts appear to have stagnated, with dire consequences.

Section27’s head of health, Sasha Stevenson, said: “We have real stagnation of health reform efforts while we’re waiting on the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill.

“The NHI Bill has been a topic of discussion for many years and in the interim while we’ve had five years of pilots. But we were then told they were not NHI pilots.

“We’ve had some interventions including amendments to the National Health Act, but we haven't seen the kind of healthcare system reforms that are so desperately needed in this country.”

Stevenson, said there was a trust deficit between stakeholders, a healthcare system under severe strain, and a loss of and threatened loss of healthcare workers.

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Most respondents agreed with the need to better regulate the private sector, including the pharmaceutical industry.

Concentric Alliance director and report co-author, Brian Currin, said there was an increasing need for collaboration between the public and private sectors in dealing with society’s problems to achieve the best outcomes.

“While our research has illustrated that there are in fact many shared principles that the National Department of Health and the private health sector hold on health reform, the way the debate has been pursued so far has resulted in worsening relationships.

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“There has also been a breakdown of constructive dialogue and timing of responses to one of South Africa’s most important challenges, the realisation of fundamental human rights entrenched in our Constitution, equity and access to quality healthcare for all in our country,” Currin said.

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Cape Argus

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