Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has made an earnest appeal to private doctors to offer four hours of their services to public clinics in a bid to ease congestion at these facilities.
Motsoaledi said the overcrowding of patients in hospitals was due to the non-availability of doctors at clinics – patients lost confidence in clinics where there were no doctors and went to hospitals which were already at capacity.
"Select a clinic of your choice, where you'll give us four hours and work in those clinics. We are not asking you to volunteer and work for free, we are going to pay you fairly and direct from our national Head Office in Pretoria."
The money to pay the doctors has been made available since April this year.
He said while the department was not forcing private doctors to give up their time, he was hoping they would become part of the solution to improve state hospitals which often had a lot going on.
"We want to see whether in the next three years, we would have made inroads in meeting the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals]," Motsoaledi said.
The minister was speaking on Sunday to doctors working in the uMgungundlovu District which has been selected to pilot the first phase of the NHI for the next five years.
The aim of the minister's visit was to meet with all stakeholders including doctors, nurses, health union organisations and school principals, amongst others, and discuss challenges and successes thus far.
He explained that when the concept of the NHI was first announced it received a lot of negative publicity but this was because most of the information did not come from the Department of Health but people who were against it.
Motsoaledi told the doctors and hospital management at the meeting that it would take time to put the NHI plan into action and change could not be expected overnight.
"It will take 14 years to complete the NHI project, the first five years will be a process of building and preparations. Our first job is to uplift the public health sector so that it is in a proper state for NHI, this will involve a massive amount of work," Motsoaledi said.
He announced that the Office of Health Standard Compliance was currently being discussed in Parliament and warned that individual people in hospital management would have to start answering when things went wrong at a health institution.
He noted that, although South Africa has managed to reduce Malaria deaths by 80%, the country was struggling with HIV and AIDS. A total of 500 000 people are infected with TB and a quarter of ARVs consumed in the world goes to South Africa.
"We have 1.5-million people on ARVs compared to 130 000 people in Mexico. We can't talk health in KwaZulu-Natal without talking about HIV and AIDS – KZN is ranked number one in the country in HIV and AIDS and the situation is getting worse with most areas like Ladysmith already reaching 46%," Motsoaledi said.
He stressed the need to strengthen the effectiveness of the health system to deal with quadruple diseases, including HIV and AIDS and TB, maternal, newborn and child deaths, non-communicable diseases as well as deaths from violence and injury.