19 February 2014
The South African government plans to build at least 43 hospitals and 213 clinics in the next five years for the country’s proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) system, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said at a media briefing at Parliament in Cape Town on Tuesday.
The Department of Health also plans to refurbish and re-equip 870 clinics in the 11 NHI pilot districts, Motsoaledi said. The building of 43 brand-new hospitals would facilitate a seamless referral system upwards, he said.
The minister said that, since 1994, access to health services had been a priority for the government: “Many areas, especially black rural areas, did not even have primary healthcare facilities in the form of clinics. Hence, a lot of clinics were constructed in the rural areas under a special programme foreseen at the national level but implemented at provincial level.
“Today, more than 40% of all clinics existing in South Africa were built after Tata Nelson Mandela became our first democratically elected president,” Motsoaledi said.
According to Stats SA, the number of people who go directly to clinics had increased from 44.5% in 2004 to 55.6% in 2012. Motsoaledi said this was an indication of increased access to primary healthcare facilities.
Human resources for health
According to the World Health Organisation, adequate numbers of medical staff are among the six building blocks of a healthcare system.
Motsoaledi said that by January 2014, 44 000 community-service health professionals had been placed in rural and underserved areas since the introduction of community service in 1998.
“This has greatly increased access to health care. We have asked our medical schools to try and over stretch themselves and we are happy that they have obliged,” he said. “In 2012, 220 additional medical students, who would ordinarily not be admitted to medical schools, were enrolled. This figure increased to 425 across our medical schools.”
There are currently 2 074 South African students from rural areas and disadvantaged backgrounds studying medicine in Cuba. The department has increased the number of students studying in Cuba to 1 000 a year, compared to 60 at the programme’s start.
Motsoaledi said support from the Public Health Enhancement Fund should produce 1 000 PhDs in 10 years time. Most of the recently registered PhDs are in the field of HIV and Aids and TB research.
SAinfo reporter and SAnews.gov.za