SA Medical Association concerned about rushed implementation of NHI, amid systemic healthcare challenges

South Africa's healthcare system faces a critical juncture as it deals with enduring inequalities and strives for innovation. File Picture

South Africa's healthcare system faces a critical juncture as it deals with enduring inequalities and strives for innovation. File Picture

Published Dec 8, 2023


South Africa's oldest and most revered medical body, the South African Medical Association (SAMA), has issued a clarion call for urgent systemic reforms within the country's healthcare sector.

Ahead of their pivotal annual conference set for February 2024 in Johannesburg, SAMA has highlighted the need for the country to rally together to prevent the potential collapse of public healthcare systems.

"Despite our nation's pledge to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 3, we find ourselves grappling to reach the vital milestones set forth for universal health coverage and holistic wellbeing," Dr Mvuyisi Mzukwa, spokesperson SAMA said, citing the World Health Organization-endorsed goals as a foundational roadmap for improvement.

The spotlight shines on the contentious National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill, a major reformative measure designed to drive the agenda for universal health coverage.

Despite its aim to regulate healthcare accessibility, SAMA, along with other petitioning bodies, has criticised the bill's current form as unaffordable and impractical, warning that it risks being imposed on citizens without proper consultation.

Mzukwa, however, reflected on the country's significant strides, such as the largest HIV treatment rollout globally, with over five million people receiving antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), and innovative early-stage trials for Tuberculosis (TB) treatments.

He, however, said it was imperative for collaborative governance and multidisciplinary research to navigate the complexities of the proposed health insurance reforms.

The conference will also delve into the potential of digital strategies to revolutionise healthcare, although these have yet to be fully implemented.

"Much work remains to be done to effectively harness the power of emerging technologies for better healthcare outcomes," Mzukwa said.

Moreover, SAMA is gearing up to address the surge of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which have seen a dramatic 60% increase over the past two decades, highlighting a critical need for a proactive response from the healthcare system.

In an era where healthcare tourism is on the rise, Mzukwa also notes the success of local pharmaceutical production as a step toward self-reliance, despite ongoing dependencies on international suppliers for key ingredients.

Taking lessons learned during the pandemic, Mzukwa said it was imperative not to leave anyone behind.

"Our journey towards a more equitable and resilient healthcare system is a collective endeavour — one that must not falter in the face of adversity," he added, signalling a critical shift towards a prevention-oriented healthcare model for South Africa.

IOL News