HEALTH: Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. Photo: Jacques Naude/African News Agency

Doctors are still coming to grips with Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi’s universal health care proposal, which promises equal and high-quality health care for rich and poor.
Many doctors are sceptical about the plan, voicing concern over the resources required for it, funding for it and its implementation.

The SA Society of Anaesthesiologists - which represents about 90% of the 1379 anaesthetists in the public and private sectors - disclosed that about 79% of its members in the private sector, and 59% in the public sector, believed the introduction of the proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) fund would be detrimental to their profession.

Anaesthetist Dr Milton Raff said many doctors had reservations about their profession being regulated.

“Introducing a regulating system that will affect doctors’ money may lead to medical migration,” he said.

The idea of the universal fund was appealing, but there was uncertainty over its implementation.

“We can’t help but worry who will fund this - taxpayers? There’s no clear indicator of what will transpire in the next few years. It would be unfortunate to implement something prematurely and end up damaging the system, which is already in need of an upgrade,” he said.

Kenneth Marion, chief operating officer of Bonitas Medical Fund, said: “While in principle we support the government and applaud them for taking proactive measures, there are a number of questions which still need to be answered.

“How will the system ensure quality health care? How will it be administered? Another concern is around the proposal that there be a single public purchaser and financier of health services for the country.”

A gynaecologist and obstetrician in Cape Town, who did not want to be named, said “we can’t be negative when we don’t even know the impact it (NHI) may have”.

“There are a lot of poor people who don’t have access to good and affordable health care and that needs to be corrected. Is the NHI really the solution? We don’t know.”

Dr Dumani Kula, deputy chief executive of Clinix Health Group, said the objectives of the NHI were to improve access to quality and affordable health care for the entire country, and specifically correct the injustices of the past. “The creation of the NHI fund is an opportunity for the private sector to work closely with government in fulfilling the goal of universal health care.”