Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba has come out in support of the proposed National Health Insurance Bill. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - South Africa’s Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba has come out in support of the proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill.

Makgoba said on Friday the tabling of the white paper on NHI by Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi for public comment provided an opportunity to discuss finding lasting solutions to improving healthcare in the country.

The call for support came after Motsoaledi vowed that all psychiatric patients will become the responsibility of the national government to avoid a tragedy similar to that of Life Esidimeni.

Motsoaledi said that while the deaths happened in Gauteng, all nine provincial health departments would cease to have powers to look after psychiatric patients.

He also promised to provide Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal with all necessary equipment to treat cancer patients in the country, saying all that was part of his NHI plan.

Makgoba said there was an urgent need for a universal access to healthcare in the country.

“We dare not fail on this ambitious challenge.

“South Africa’s National Planning Commission (NPC) recommended universal healthcare - the NHI - as the policy option in 2012, almost three years before the UN and WHO, as part of its recommendation to address the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. This was endorsed by all political parties in Parliament and must now be implemented,” he said.

A similar system was implemented 70 years ago in Britain. It is called the National Health Service (NHS) and residents there had never debated whether it should exist or be reviewed, Makgopa said. “Over the 70 years of the UK’s NHS existence, passionate debates have and continue to take place on matters of governance, manpower (human resources), leadership and funding.

“These are real painful implementation issues, all meant to improve the functioning and better translation of the NHS concept in reality on the ground,” he emphasised.

Makgoba said Motsoaledi has led and championed universal healthcare, saying he “started the race, led the race and must complete the race”.

He said the British model was similar to that proposed by Motsoaledi in South Africa. In the UK, for the first time, hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists were brought together under one umbrella organisation - the NHS, that is free for all at the point of delivery.

“The central principles were clear: the health service will be available to all and financed entirely from taxation, which means that people pay into it according to their means,” he said.

Makgoba said the British system was based on the model that the “the rich must subsidise the poor to establish and provide universal healthcare”.

“As South Africans. we should therefore not focus our discussion or debates on accepting the principle or the concept of universal healthcare. We should take this as a given.

“Like in many countries, the concept should be accepted as it offers the only and best option currently available. The NHI is in line with our constitution and National Health Act (NHA).

“It is the most transformative concept to our health system since the dawn of our democracy,” Makgoba said.

He said the NHI, implemented properly, would not only “address all the challenges we face within the health system but would also transform the health system progressively and fundamentally”.

“We dare not fail on this ambitious challenge,” he stressed.

Political Bureau