President Cyril Ramaphosa Picture: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS

Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramphosa's government is committed to strengthening the health system by providing quality health care for all through the National Health Insurance, his office said on Thursday.

Ramaphosa told more than 300 participants from a range of institutions at a recent conference that progress had been made in expanding access to health services since the demise of apartheid but acknowledged that major challenges still exist, the Presidency said in a statement.

The president committed himself to provide leadership to ensure the implementation of NHI, it added.

Ramaphosa said experience elsewhere had shown that implementing NHI implementation was successful if not approached as a single ministry or department's responsibility, but rather that of the whole government.

“Health must be seen as an investment and not a consumption expenditure”, he said, adding that society should be mobilised and a clear communication strategy be developed to create awareness and understanding of how the health insurance would work for all South Africans.  

The meeting agreed NHI should be rolled out based on the core principles of human rights, social solidarity and with a focus on health care need rather than the ability to pay. 

This would ensure that no one was left behind in accessing quality health care services.

Ramaphosa called for a national health summit to explore the challenges faced by the health sector on October 19-20.

The Presidency said in the medium term, NHI legislation would be promulgated in 2019 and facilities that met requirements would be designated as NHI-ready clinics and hospitals. Implementation would be phased in from late 2019, with completion envisaged by 2025.

African News Agency/ANA