15 April 2008
South Africans’ use of public healthcare services has almost doubled over the past eight years, with 101-million visits to clinics being recorded over the 2006/07 financial year.
Addressing the opening of the National Consultative Health Forum (NCHF) recently, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said the increase was due to improved access as a result of building more than 1 600 clinics closer to the communities, improved package of care available at clinics and the removal of user fees.
“Efforts have also been made to decrease the inequalities in the funding amongst health districts and have led to significant improvement in service delivery and health outcomes,” she said.
Immunisation coverage currently stood at 85% and the average number of new cases of diarrhoea per 1000 children under the age of five dropped by more than half, from 258 in 2005 to 119 in 2006.
“These successes are a result of determination of our health workers to deliver services to our people, there are some promising signs with respect to both HIV and TB,” Tshabalala-Msimang said.
Success against HIV, TB
She further said that the 2006 antenatal survey showed for the first time a decline in HIV prevalence particularly amongst young people and that TB cure rates were improving annually while defaulter rates were declining.
Tshabalala-Msimang told BuaNews that the significant decline in HIV prevalence on pregnant women under the age of 20 meant that young people had taken the department’s message seriously.
“Peer groups go a long way in changing attitudes,” she explained.
She added that the department was on the right track in terms of resource availability in clinics with 86% of health facilities having all the resources needed.
The NCHF noted that while there were many achievements in the delivery of primary healthcare services in the country, there were still many challenges.
This included improving access to primary healthcare services and equitable allocation of resources, the availability of adequate human resources for healthcare, improving quality of care, strengthening district management and increasing community participation.
The forum called for a revised primary healthcare strategy for South Africa, in which per capita expenditure on primary healthcare would be doubled over the next 10 years.
It also resolved to ensure that primary healthcare provided by the private health sector was made more affordable to the public.
The NCHF represents government, public and private health sectors, statutory bodies, academics and research institutions, community organisations, civil society, non-governmental organisations and organised labour.
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