Chisom Jenniffer Okoye and Simnikiwe Hltshaneni
'Government’s own findings on the pilots indicated the country was not ready for a phase two, and far from ready from implementing the NHI.'
While the parliamentary committee on health welcomed the most recent report on the implementation of the first phase of the National Health Insurance (NHI), the Democratic Alliance (DA) said the failures in the project show that South Africa’s health system was nowhere near ready for universal health cover.
This comes after the department of health briefed the committee on the NHI pilot districts evaluation report which revealed their programme’s progress over the past five years.
The NHI piloting phase was based on piloting 10 programmes, in all nine provinces and across 11 districts.
Committee chair Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said they had welcomed the report, but raised some concerns on the challenges the department faced.
“Responding to the concerns raised by the committee, (Health Minister) Dr Zweli Mkhize said it will take a while to get everything right,” he said. “Dr Mkhize reiterated that the uncertainties that were highlighted by the committee will be addressed as this will ensure the implementation of NHI.”
However, unimpressed by the department’s efforts was the DA’s Siviwe Gwarube, who sat on the portfolio committee on health in parliament.
According to Gwarube, government’s own findings on the pilots indicated the country was not ready for a phase two, and far from ready from implementing the NHI.
By government’s own admission, it was difficult to assess the overall impact of the interventions placed at the various pilot sites due to a lack of control groups, baseline data measures and variations.
What the DA took issue with was the NHI’s phase one outcomes could not inform how phase two would be rolled out.
“Clearly there are massive challenges with the basic healthcare system. There are massive issues that require our attention like all the vacancies and the huge service pressures. We still have a long way to go in terms of improving access to quality healthcare.”
According to the report, the first phase of the NHI pilot did not involve developing a new funding model for healthcare in South Africa, but was focused on piloting various health system strengthening interventions.
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