Mkhize blames big health for sector's ailments
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize was responding to the findings of the Competition Commission’s Health Market Inquiry (HMI), released earlier this week.
The report recommended the creation of a regulator for the entire private health-care industry, the quality of the care it provides and its pricing system.
The report also found that the private health sector was “neither efficient nor competitive”.
The inquiry found that the Health Department had not used existing legal authority to “manage the private health-care market and had failed to ensure regular reviews as required by law and to hold regulators sufficiently accountable”.
Mkhize said the Department of Health had long identified practices in the private health sector that adversely affected patients and had the effect of increasing the cost of health care delivery in general.
He said when the government attempted to intervene, it was seen as interfering in the market, yet there was no hope for self-regulation.
“Since 2009, the departmental attempts at creating a legislative framework to protect the public were rejected or met with denials and court challenges,” the minister said.
According to Mkhize, in 2015 the department decided to approach the Department of Trade and Industry and agreed that an independent inquiry that would expose the sector’s challenges and irregularities.
The department believed this would pave a way for the implementation of appropriate rules and regulations for the benefit of private health care users, as well as the entire health sector.
Mkhize said the delays in the inquiry that resulted in the report only being completed after five years, and not three, was “due in part to persistent efforts to frustrate the process by some private sector stakeholders”.
He said the ministry rejected the accusations that the government had failed the people.
“We commend the commission for the detailed analysis and the professional manner the work of the commission was approached,” said the minister.
Mkhize said the government’s plan to institute the National Health Insurance (NHI) would help to protect the public and create equal access to quality health services for all.
“By introducing a large fund that strategically purchases goods and services, the NHI will encourage competition and price control.”
Section27 and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) also welcomed the report.
“We particularly welcome the Department of Health’s commitment to work with civil society organisations to ensure that patients understand the findings and recommendations in the final report, the links to the NHI proposals and the implications on their access to health-care services,” said Sibongile Tshabalala of the TAC.
He said the organisation was pleased that the HMI had taken a patient-centred approach in its recommendations, as the TAC had advocated since the inception of the independent inquiry.