Government spending on health care is expected to exceed R492-billion over the next three years as South Africa strengthens its health care system in preparation for the implementation of a National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.
Budget documents released on Wednesday show that national health spending will grow at a higher rate over the next few years, in line with the National Development Plan’s (NDP’s) vision of a cheaper health sector that works for all South Africans.
Tabling his 2014 Budget in Parliament in Cape Town on Wednesday, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said the Department of Health’s white paper on the NHI and a financing paper by the National Treasury had been completed and were expected to be presented to the Cabinet shortly.
The roll-out of the NHI is currently being financed by two conditional grants: the nationally managed national health grant, and the national health insurance grant, managed by the provinces.
More than R221-million will be made available in the 2014 Budget for the national health insurance grant in order to strengthen district health structures in the country.
Gordhan said that, in addition to hospital and clinic building and refurbishment programmes – for which over R19-billion has been earmarked – about R1.2-billion has been set aside for doctors’ contracts.
More than R300-million will go towards the establishment of an office of Health Standards Compliance, which will serve as an independent public entity responsible for inspecting the country’s health facilities.
About R600-million has been budgeted for the introduction of the new Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine, which prevents cancer of the cervix. The roll-out of the vaccine will begin with Grade 4 learners in schools across the country next month.
Gordhan said improvements in South Africa’s health system over the past five years were reflected in the country’s rising life expectancy, the reduction in infant, child and maternal mortality, as well as the increased access to free antiretroviral treatment for HIV.
“Over the period ahead, enrolment in the HIV treatment programme will expand by 500 000 a year,” he noted. Currently, 2.5-million South Africans are receiving this treatment. This increase would require an addition of R1-billion to the health budget, the minister said.
Since 2009, South Africa has lowered its child mortality rate by reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV from 3.5% to 2.5%. At the same time, a campaign to increase voluntary HIV testing, as well as the number of medical male circumcisions, has contributed to a reduction in the country’s adult mortality rate.