People of the Free State have high hopes on NHI
The Portfolio Committee on Health has successfully concluded public hearings on the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill in the Free State where the majority of participants pronounced their support for the Bill.
When participating in the hearings, the people of Free State told the committee that the Bill has a potential of ensuring equitable access to healthcare in the country.
The aim of the NHI Bill is to achieve universal access to quality healthcare services in South Africa, in accordance with section 27 of the Constitution.
It further aims to establish a National Health Insurance Fund and to set out its powers, functions and governance structures to provide a framework for the strategic purchasing of healthcare services by the fund on behalf of its users, to create mechanisms for the equitable, effective and efficient utilisation of the resources of the fund to meet the health needs of the population and to preclude or limit undesirable, unethical and unlawful practices in relation to the fund and its users.
The Chairperson of the committee, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, highlighted the enriching value of these public participation processes that will deliver a stronger legislative framework that is responsive to the needs of the people. This is the 6th province we have been to and the deliberations have empowered us as the committee members to make impactful decisions when we deliberate on all the written and oral submissions that have been made to the committee, Dr Dhlomo said.
The popular view in both district municipalities visited in the Free State, Mangaung and Fezille Dabi, was that the Bill was a necessary tool to ensure that everyone in the country receives quality healthcare regardless of their social and financial standing. Although the people support the Bill, they highlighted certain challenges that face the healthcare sector, and told the committee that those challenges need urgent attention.
The challenges they highlighted in both municipalities included the lack of capacity in clinics and hospitals, very limited hours of service at clinics, long queues, poor attitude displayed by healthcare workers towards patients at health facilities, shortage of doctors and medicines, unavailability of ambulances as well as dilapidated clinics that need urgent attention.
Like in other provinces, the people of the Free State Province in both districts, called for the reintroduction of health inspectors that will ensure that healthcare facilities are up to standard and render quality healthcare services to the people. Some representatives of the people living with disabilities emphasised that their daily specific needs are enshrined in the Bill.
The committee was told by the people that access to healthcare for people with disabilities is still a challenge that needs an urgent and serious attention.
As has been the norm in other provinces, the Head of the Department of Health was present in all the public hearings in both districts, and was told to look into the challenges raised by the people with the aim of dealing with them.
While the majority of the participants supported the Bill, there were those who unreservedly expressed their disapproval of the Bill basing their disapproval mainly on their concern about the governance of the NHI Fund.
They highlighted uncertainty on funding mechanism of the Fund, and its vulnerability to corruption and fraud. Furthermore, the participants highlighted the fact that the fund might be a vehicle for corruption like in other state owned entities. All these views will be considered by the committee and will form part of the broader deliberations towards the conclusion of the process, Dr Dhlomo said.
The committee intended to visit three districts in the Free State, but due to service delivery protests in Thabo Mofutsanyane District, public hearings planned for that district were cancelled. By the time we received information of the protests it was already late to effectively plan another public hearing in the district, Dr Dhlomo emphasised.
Source: Government of South Africa