Minister Zweli Mkhize has made a very bold claim to start the year: He predicts that NHI will put private and public hospitals on par with each other.
This probably didn’t come out as the compliment Health Minister Zweli Mkhize was hoping for. The ANC cabinet member triumphantly announced on Wednesday that there would be “no distinction” between public and private hospitals once the National Health Insurance (NHI) is rolled out.
The much-maligned plans would ensure that all citizens received free healthcare upon entering any hospital in South Africa. While the intentions are good, the execution may be lacking. Critics have slammed NHI for threatening to cripple private health programmes, and point to its enormous costing and logistical challenges.
‘We’re going to see improvements’
However, Mkhize and his team remain undeterred. Speaking during a visit to a hospital in KwaZulu-Natal on New Year’s Day, the minister said that NHI would “bridge the gap” between public and private care.
“We are starting a new decade in which we will be instituting decisive actions in implementation of NHI. When it is fully implemented, there will be no distinction between public and private hospitals. We believe we are going to be seeing changes and improvements in the quality.”
“Our message to South Africans is to encourage good healthy living, particularly now when non-communicable diseases are on the rise. Individuals and communities are encouraged to take full responsibility of their health in partnership with the healthcare.”
When will NHI happen, and how much will it cost?
The rollout of the much-anticipated National Health Insurance (NHI) will require an additional R33-billion annually. This was revealed in the National Treasury’s adjusted estimates of the national expenditure document released at the tabling of the 2019 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) in October.