Your lead story, “Doctors call for halt of NHI bill”, (Cape Argus, July 26) refers.
It is time for the ANC to admit its failures in improving the public health-care system.
For more than 20 years, access to quality health care has been a resolution taken at all ANC conferences, yet nothing has seriously been done to address the dire state of health-care services in the country.
With elections looming, the party appears to be acting out of desperation, with a poorly thoughtout National Health Insurance bill being fast-tracked through Parliament.
The reality is that less than 16% of South Africans have access to medical aid schemes, leaving most citizens with the burden of dealing with a deteriorating public health system overseen by the government.
It is clear that something needs to be done to address this issue, but in its current form, the NHI bill is not the answer.
Medical aid schemes and doctors across the country have repeatedly highlighted their concerns about the bill, with a petition of 50 000 signatures handed to the government by 12 000 doctors.
While the ANC might be convinced that it has come up with a solution to the health-care crisis, it appears to be ignoring the concerns of those who are expected to implement the legislation.
The proposed legislation also raises an ethical question: Can the ANC be trusted to manage the process effectively and without corruption? If anything, the party’s track record inspires little confidence in such an endeavour.
Moreover, the cost of implementing the NHI bill is expected to be in the trillions of rand, which will be funded by a special tax. Given that a minority of taxpayers will be required to foot the bill, this is hardly a popular proposition.
The ANC’s objective should not be to address its 2017 resolution at any cost, but to find the most effective way to manage and improve the public health system.
A hasty and poorly conceived bill is not the answer. Instead, the government should engage with private health-care providers, doctors, medical aid schemes and other experts who can help develop constructive solutions to address the challenges of health care in South Africa.
The NHI bill has the potential to destroy the country’s entire healthcare system. South Africa is facing a concerning shortage of doctors and health-care workers. If the government implements measures that alienate these professionals, it is going to exacerbate the problem.
It is time for the ANC to recognise its shortcomings, and begin working with the private health sector constructively.
The party needs to demonstrate accountability and transparency, and recognise that it cannot manage the process alone. Only by genuinely engaging stakeholders, and coming up with viable solutions that benefit everyone, can the ANC begin to fulfil its long-standing promise to improve health care for all South Africans.
Any other approach is irresponsible and will lead to yet another failed and costly experiment by the governing party.
* Visvin Reddy, ADeC leader.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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