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BHF Annual Conference concludes with key NHI insights and roadmap for SA’s healthcare future

13 May 2024

After what was an insightful and collaborative meeting of the minds of healthcare professionals and experts at the 2024 BHF Annual Conference, the final day concluded by providing crucial insights into regulatory reforms shaping the future of healthcare in South Africa, as well as the legalities surrounding the controversial NHI Bill.

Facilitated by Nomo Khumalo, BHF Director and Head of Solutions at MMI Health, part one of the discussion comprised the key regulatory responses essential for building a resilient health system capable of navigating beyond current barriers.  

Among the notable delegates participating in the discussion were Vincent Tlala, Registrar and CEO of the South African Pharmacy Council; Dr Magome Masike, Registrar of the Health Professions Council of South Africa; Dr Thandi S Mabeba, Chairperson of the Council for Medical Schemes; Dr Mark Blecher, Chief Director of Health and Social Development at the National Treasury; Yoliswa Makhasi, Director General of DPSA; and Dr Sandile Buthelezi, Director-General of the National Department of Health.  

Their expertise across the healthcare regulatory sector added invaluable insights into the state of the sector, where they explored the current policy landscape, analysed the intent of reforms versus the realities, and discussed necessary changes for policymakers to ensure healthcare sustainability.  

While all dignitaries note the need for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) to bridge the gap in access to healthcare in South Africa, Dr Sandile Buthelezi, acknowledged the complexity of implementing the NHI and the need for a phased approach. To this end, Buthelezi cited that significant work is required to establish the fund, develop regulations, and set up administrative structures. 

“Apart from this, optimising healthcare delivery requires prioritising resource utilisation through proper management and spending, and addressing managerial issues to utilise available resources effectively,” suggests Buthelezi.  

“Regulatory reforms are essential for advancing healthcare, encompassing standardised data collection, quality enhancement, and informed policy evolution. Moreover, the integration of digital health strategies is paramount, leveraging technology to bolster comprehensive health information systems and elevate healthcare delivery." 

Amidst the discussions, a common thread resonated among all dignitaries: the vital importance of collaboration. Here, Buthelezi stressed the necessity for stakeholders within the healthcare sector to unite in pursuit of shared goals, emphasising the need to improve health outcomes and effectively tackle challenges through collaborative efforts. 

Following this, the conversation swung to the legalities of the impending NHI Bill in a session chaired by Michelle Beneke of Michelle Beneke Attorneys Inc, and featured industry experts Neil Kirby, Director at Werksmans Attorneys, and David Geral, Partner at Bowmans. 

The conversation focused on the several facets of the implementation of the Bill, including its constitutionality, lack of government response to engagement efforts, and the broader regulatory challenges facing the healthcare industry. 

According to Kirby, Werksman Attorneys, as legal representatives of BHF, have closely monitored the evolution of the NHI Bill, thoroughly scrutinising its alignment with South Africa’s constitutional principles. 

“Regrettably, the implementation process hasn't yielded a bill that adequately addresses our constitutional concerns. Despite incremental progress and assurances of future adjustments, the current iteration falls short of meeting the constitutional litmus test.  

“As stakeholders directly impacted by the bill's implications, we cannot afford to overlook constitutional shortcomings. Our obligation demands rigorous adherence to constitutional standards, ensuring that any legislation enacted upholds the rights and principles enshrined in our constitution,” he says.  

To this end, Geral adds that the Bill introduces significant changes to the healthcare system, which may potentially affect tax policy and revenue sources.  

In closing the conference, Dr Katlego Mothudi, Managing Director at BHF, emphasised the success of the conference in addressing industry challenges while promoting sustainability across the healthcare sector.  

“As we conclude this enlightening conference, we reflect on the breadth of topics covered, from disease burden to the transformative potential of digitisation and AI in healthcare. Our discussions underscored the necessity of embracing change, combating fraud, and fostering regional collaboration.  

“With a firm focus on healthcare reform, particularly the intricacies of the NHI Bill, our gathering has propelled us toward a future marked by innovation, resilience, sustainability and collective action. In the words of Edgar Tan - we can have what we need if we use what we have,” he concludes.

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