World Health Day used to punt NHI to fight inequality
DURBAN - AS the world marked World Health Day on Wednesday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize used the occasion to highlight the need for the National Health Insurance scheme to address the unequal access to quality healthcare services.
During a webinar, Mkhize lamented how many specialists worked in the private sector, compared to the public sector.
“A mere 24.8% of specialists worked in the public sector serving 84% of the population. While 75% of specialists work in the private sector, serving 16% of the population,” Mkhize said.
The minister said general practitioners, specialists and audiologists, among others, chose to work in the private sector and serve people from high income households and groups, despite the need for them being the greatest at lower income groups and poor households.
He said the NHI would be critical in restructuring the core components of the healthcare system and would enshrine universal access, social solidarity and access to quality healthcare services.
Mkhize said there were lessons that could be learned from the pandemic that could be used to build more resilient healthcare systems capable of absorbing the next public health threat.
Lessons from the first and second waves included creating a mechanism for reliable health system governance that efficiency and high data input. He said the decisions they had made were scientific based.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s director for Africa, said when the pandemic was declared last year, no one thought it would last this long.
“But now it seems to be the new normal,” she said.
Moeti pointed to how there were more than 131 million Covid-19 cases and more than 2.5 million deaths worldwide.
“Covid-19 has hit all countries hard. Covid-19 has shone the light on the inequalities between countries. Amid shortages of essential supplies, African countries have been pushed to the back of the queue of accessing Covid-19 test kits.”
Moeti said vaccines offered great hope to turn the tide against Covid-19, but to protect the world, it must be ensured that all people, and not those who could afford them, were immunised.
Of the 449 million vaccines administered around the world, only 2% were in Africa even though the continent accounted for 17% of the global population, she said
Deputy Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the pandemic brought health back in the spotlight and that good health was not a privilege, but a basic human right.
He said inequality was here from time immemorial, but could be reduced if not eliminated. Gains that had been made in healthcare were not shared equally around the world, Phaahla said.
“Covid-19 had disproportionately impacted those who were poor and poor countries and regions. Evidence shows a worsening disparity,” he said.