National health: SA ‘part of global trend’

25 April 2012

Universal health coverage is a worldwide phenomenon supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said as he tabled his department’s budget vote in Parliament in Cape Town on Tuesday.

Motsoaledi was responding to MPs’ queries over the coming implementation of South Africa’s National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.

Motsoaledi said implementing some or other form of the scheme was the aim of most countries, noting that it was only last month that 21 countries – including South Africa – signed the Mexico City Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage.

NHI preparatory audits 90% complete

Motsoaledi said his department was about 90% of the way through preparatory audits for the NHI, with teams scrutinising the country’s hospitals and clinics for things such as cleanliness, safety and security, drug stock count, queues, infection control and staff attitudes.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has allocated R1-billion for the Department of Health to carry out 10 NHI pilots.

Through the NHI, the department aimed to tackle four main health problems in the country, namely improving general life expectancy, reducing child and maternal mortality, beating HIV/Aids and improving the overall efficiency of the health care system.

Motsoledi said his department was tackling under-spending on health infrastructure, adding that this had been reduced from over R800-million for the last financial year to R390-million since the new year had started.

Recently, 70 unemployed graduates with degrees in chemistry and chemical engineering had been appointed to turn around the performance of the forensic health unit, he said.

The department has also appointed 100 commerce graduates to undergo a leadership programme.

Progress on HIV/Aids

On HIV/Aids, Motsoaledi said a new strategic plan had been launched in December that, for the first time, made fighting TB part of tackling the HIV/Aids epidemic.

He said that more than 15-million South Africans would know their HIV status as a result of the department’s testing campaign.

Under the new plan, Motsoaledi wants every South African to test for HIV/Aids at least once a year.

The number of South Africans on anti-retrovirals (ARVs) had also increased, the minister said, while the incidence of mother-to-child infection had decreased from eight percent in 2008 to 3.5% in 2011 – saving about 30 000 babies from contracting HIV/Aids.

He said a new campaign initiated by the African Union – the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa – would be launched in KwaZulu-Natal next month.

The department also planned to tackle non-communicable diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancers and asthma, as well as growing lifestyle problems related to smoking, alcohol, poor eating and lack of physical exercise.

Source: BuaNews