Chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, holds that those who are opposing the National Health Insurance Bill (NHI) are devoid of social solidarity.
In an exclusive interview with Polity Dr Dhlomo said people who wished to oppose the NHI must also consider going to international courts because the issue of access to healthcare is a universal one.
It remains to be seen if opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA) will take government to court, as it has previously indicated it will, in an effort to stop the NHI Bill from being signed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“A month ago we were visited by elders who were once in the same committee with [former President] Nelson Mandela who were advocating for universal health coverage in the whole world. Whoever is saying they are going to take us to court, they have probably not studied very well what is happening around the world. This is a mood in the whole world where everybody must make sure that the citizens are taken care of,” Dhlomo said.
He said there would always be people who wanted to keep resources for themselves without thinking of others.
He said government was prepared to meet those who are opposing the NHI in court.
Meanwhile, Dhlomo pointed out that currently medical aids may deny their clients certain medical services and at times, members run out of funds very early in the year and have a dilemma of using cash to get access to medical care.
“Rich people will supplement their medical aids by out-of-pocket payment. Not all South Africans have that opportunity to have very deep pockets of money. If you are still sick and the medical aid is exhausted and the private hospital is discharging you, you go home to die. But these people flood the public hospitals,” highlighted Dhlomo.
He denied allegations that only public hospitals were a problem and said the Competition Commission’s Healthcare Market Inquiry revealed that there were many inefficiencies in the private health care sector.
“There is so much over-pricing and over-charging. We need to fix our health system in the country because both private and public have got challenges. Private must admit that they also have challenges and we must work towards a universal health coverage,” Dhlomo said.
He dismissed fears that the NHI would negatively impact tax payers in the country and said that many countries had implemented this kind of service.
He told Polity that every South African must rally behind the NHI to make sure that everyone have access to health care.
“I do not worry about the people who are opposing the NHI because if you listen to their reasons – it is because they do not want to share,” Dhlomo repeated.
HEALTH SECTOR ANTI-CORRUPTION FORUM
He said the Committee was excited about the recently launched Health Sector Anti-Corruption Forum and said it was a step in the right direction.
“We want South Africans to be available and contribute and we would do everything humanly possible to make sure that tendencies of corruption and people who might be squandering money are far from this process. Nobody would have known that there would be corruption in State entities as it has happened,” added Dhlomo.
He said he wanted to see the case of tender irregularities in the procurement of oncology machines in Addington hospital closed while he was Health MEC in KwaZulu-Natal.
“We were happy because our efforts of bringing this matter to the legal processes are now yielding [results] and it doesn’t matter that there were delays along the way. Some of those pointers are going to show that even if you defraud the department of government you can get away with it for a few times but one day things will come back. This is our hope that justice would be done in this programme,” explained Dhlomo.
NHI COMMENTS EXTENSION
Dr Dhlomo said it was important to make sure that as a committee they make sure that everyone was satisfied with the NHI process.
“We want to make sure that no South African is left behind and that everybody is part of the process,” he said, commending the work done by the Department of Health in printing about one-million pamphlets explaining the NHI in all eleven languages.
Dhlomo said preparations were well underway for the public hearings on the NHI, beginning in Mpumalanga on October 25, with completion expected by the middle of next year.