As a nation, we are bombarded with information about how the public healthcare sector is falling apart. As of 2014, the population of South Africa was unequally distributed between the public and private health care sector.
In this panel discussion, Mike Wills alongside Mark Heywood from the public interest law group, SECTION27) and Maria Phalime author of Postmortem: The doctor who walked away, tell us about what is really happening in our hospitals.
The conditions described the above guests is exacerbated by the unequal distribution of resources between the public and private health care sector.
This distribution has dire consequences for our health as a nation. Firstly, it means access to quality medical care is monetized. Those who can afford it, thrive and those who cannot don’t. Secondly, it has a significant impact on the life expectancy of the country. However, the most significant impact of this unequal distribution of funds is that it is not sustainable. While it will increase their profits, it places a greater burden on their facilities and they cannot keep up with the demand. The public sector is at the mercy of government budgets which are under increasing pressure because of the economic status of the world.
As an effort to address these issues, the Department of Health has proposed to implement the National Health Insurance plan. This plan has already been implemented across eight regions as part of the testing phase. It will take 14 years to fully implement the NHI plan in South Africa.
However, for the plan to work, it is necessary for the state to address the existing problems that plague the healthcare sector. The first of these is the shortage of medical professionals, at present the eight medical schools in South Africa produce 1200 per year. That is simply not enough to service the population of 52 million. Furthermore, the working conditions of staff should be improved. This among other problems, contributes to the brain drain. The most critical issue that needs to be addressed is the shortage of health care facilities in South Africa. People, especially in rural communities face two-hour commutes to their nearest health facility. This alongside the quadruple burden of disease that burden SA, contributes to the mortality rate of the country.