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NHI: a positive turning point for healthcare?

01 February 2011 Thokozani Magwaza, Sechaba Medical Solutions

The recent approval of the National Health Reform in the United States has been hailed as a major success in the Obama tenure. The American health reform has given the South African government renewed motivation to look at ways to make the proposed Nation

The government is hard at work on its goal to deliver access to quality healthcare for all South African citizens, irrespective of their ability to pay for the services. However, there are significant challenges that may hinder increased access to quality healthcare, one of the major ones being the lack of funding.
In his first budget speech last year, Minister Pravin Gordhan highlighted the role of the private healthcare industry in terms of NHI with emphasis on the long-term reforms of financing healthcare.

“Critical to achieving this goal is collective action between both private and public partnership with clear guidelines on commitment, dedication and leadership,” says Thokozani Magwaza, CEO of Sechaba Medical Solutions.

Partnerships are critical

Magwaza believes government should join forces with the public and private sector as well as consult with all the relevant stakeholders in the industry to ensure the success of NHI. There are a number of examples where this has already been achieved on a smaller scale.

“Sechaba Medical Solutions is an example of such collaboration. It was initially started by a group of black doctors, who had a vision to make healthcare funding available to the then black sector of the population, to ensure greater equality and access to private healthcare. It therefore supported a means of reversing the challenges of the haves and have-nots, which is indeed the philosophy behind the NHI,” explains Magwaza.

“Over the years, medical aid administrators and managed care companies such as Sechaba have gained invaluable knowledge and developed the skills, experience, expertise and refined administration capacity that can now contribute meaningfully to government’s efforts around the planning and successful delivery of the National Health Insurance.”

The way forward

While the NHI is not without its challenges, what remains is an outline of the final structure and rollout of NHI so that the private sector can make the necessary plans to adapt to the new model and its significant impact on the healthcare environment as a whole.

At present, the healthcare industry awaits final documentation in terms of the fundamentals of NHI as we only have the experience of other countries to rely on until such time as the South African document is available. Once this is published, roles will be clarified on exactly how the private sector will be able to support the government’s initiatives and how it will be able to function within an NHI environment.

“We have seen how universal coverage works in other countries and it is clear from these that in order for an NHI environment to work we need a healthy private and public sector,” comments Magwaza. “As we know, South Africa is a unique country and we need to ensure that the two sectors work hand-in-hand in order for NHI to work optimally. In this way, the introduction of the NHI can prove to be a positive turning point that can provide quality healthcare to our nation.”

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