Health Minister Joe Phaahla has urged MPs in the the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to focus on the vulnerable rather than those with narrow interests when processing the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill.
Addressing the select committee on health and social services, Phaahla noted that the passing of the bill by the National Assembly had been met with mixed reaction from various stakeholders and commentators.
“We hope within the NCOP as well it is not going to be easy-going. We hope the committee will manage this in various provinces such that we can get a positive result at the end of the exercise,” he said.
“This bill provides an enabling framework for massive reforms to our entire health landscape in our country. It is no surprise that it generated massive and varied reactions, especially by those with vested interests.”
Phaahla said South Africa would remain one of the most unequal societies in the world unless citizens stood up and demanded acceleration of the transformation agenda, including the way health services were provided.
“There is much misinformation about NHI which is peddled out there by those who want to protect their interests and who fail to see the future of the rest of the people of the country.
“We ask that the committee focus on the vulnerable individuals who are the majority of our society and who need this care rather than look at narrow interests of those who fear losing some of the super-profits and privileges which they currently enjoy,” Phaahla said.
DA MP Delmaine Christians said there were a host of concerns regarding the NHI Bill that could not be overlooked before it was passed by the NCOP.
“Not only does the committee have concerns with the bill, there are a host of people in the public service that have issues with the NHI Bill,” Christians said.
She asked how the government was to address poor service delivery in the public health service.
“Across the country there are issues with service delivery. There is lack of staff and inadequate infrastructure,” Christians said.
She also wanted to know how corruption and fraud would be curbed when the NHI was implemented as well as the costing of the health insurance.
ANC MP Elleck Nchabeleng said it was good that the members had the opportunity to ask questions so that when they visited provinces they had complete information about the bill and the way forward on what needed to be done.
Nchabeleng said the problems of infrastructure were not a phenomenon only in South Africa.
“It happens all over and even in developed countries. Covid-19 showed there are gaps. The NHI will help improve infrastructure and increase the number of health professionals and specialists in areas they are not easily reachable,” he said.