SA to pump billions into health care

23 February 2011

The government has set aside over R8-billion from the Health Department’s budget of R113-billion towards boosting hospital facilities for the phasing in of South Africa’s National Health Insurance Scheme (NHI), which is expected to revolutionalise the country’s health sector.

The government envisages that the NHI will be phased in over the next 14 years.

Delivering a R979-billion Budget in Parliament in Cape Town on Wednesday, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said R1.2-billion would go towards introducing family heath care teams, R2.9-billion to improving health facilities and medical equipment, and R1.4-billion to improving district-based maternal and child health services.

About 1.7-billion has been allocated to the new Health Infrastructure Grant, which will be used to build and maintain health infrastructure.

Gordhan said the government’s expenditure on the Comprehensive HIV conditional grant would amount to R26.9-billion over the next three years, based on an increase in the number of people on antiretroviral treatment from 1.2-million this year to 2.6-million in the next two years.

Substantial reforms to address imbalances

“The phasing in of the NHI will require substantial reforms to address imbalances across the public and private sectors and expand health professional training,” he said, adding that the financial and organizational implications of the reforms were being jointly addressed by both the Health Department and National Treasury.

The South African government says it is intensifying investment in health services as part of a 10-point plan to restructure public health, which includes the NHI.

The challenges facing the sector include high rates of infant and maternal mortality, HIV/Aids, inadequate health infrastructure and a shortage of skilled health workers.

Strong growth in health spending

Spending on health has grown strongly over the past three years, from R63-billion in 2007/08 to R102.5-billion in the 2010/11 financial year. The Treasury says expenditure is expected to grow to R113-billion in the next year to and R127-billion in the following year, an average annual growth of 7.5 percent.

This year’s budget also makes provision for R6.5-billion to cater for infant and maternal health care, HIV/Aids treatment and improvement of health infrastructure.

An additional R1.4-billion goes towards improving child health services, through a wide range of interventions, including the training of 400 nurses and midwives, as outlined by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation address earlier this month.

To reinforce gains made in the fight against HIV, the state will use R2.5-billion to increase counselling and testing awareness and to extend the lower entry threshold for antiretroviral (ARV) treatment. The move will see an increase in the total number of people on ARV treatment from 1.2-million this year to 2.6-million over the next three years.

To help retain experienced personnel in the health sector, R1.6-billion has been allocated for various personnel categories, including 30 therapeutic health professional groups, and for occupational-specific dispensation for medical officers and junior specialist doctors.

Source: BuaNews