Second Presidential Health Summit

/sites/default/files/pictures/Ntombifuthi%20Nala-7519.jpgBy: Dr Ntombifuthi Nala

This year, South Africa will mark 30 years since the inauguration of the first democratically elected President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. In his inaugural address, former President Mandela gave hope to the people of this country and vowed that we would work together in addressing the challenges we inherited at the time.

“We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success,” he said.

Thirty years later, his legacy to work together to improve the lives of people has been taken forward under the 6th administration. It has been advanced through comprehensive social compacts that draw together all social partners in a common programme to address specific priorities and issues in the country.

During the Presidential Health Summit held last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa reiterated this call to work together towards addressing challenges facing South Africa’s healthcare system. He also reminded everyone that although we have made significant progress in improving South Africa’s healthcare system, the task is far from over.

The President was at pains to explain that fixing our national health system requires the input, involvement and innovation of all role-players because good quality healthcare is good for our wellbeing and economy.

The Summit, which built on the previous one held in 2018, brought together government, business, labour, civil society, health professionals, unions, service users, statutory councils, academia, and researchers to discuss challenges faced and come up with solutions. This included preparing for the implementation of the National Health Insurance, which will ensure inclusive quality healthcare for everyone irrespective of socio-economic status or geographical location.

The National Health Insurance Bill has been passed by the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces in December last year and sent to President Ramaphosa to be signed into law. It takes us closer to realise our Constitutional imperative where everyone has the right to have access to quality and affordable healthcare services as well as contribute to South Africa achieving its Sustainable Development Goals.  

The NHI is a health financing system that will bridge the gap between the rich and the poor in accessing health facilities. Its intention is to ensure citizens are able to use both the public and private sectors that are within their reach and at a reasonable price. It will put an end to exorbitant prices charged by private hospitals and professionals to enable every person in South Africa to receive good quality healthcare.

The Summit also reflected on the strengthening of the Presidential Health Compact, which was signed following the 2018 Presidential Health Summit. The Compact, which was developed following extensive consultation with various stakeholders, provides a roadmap towards improving our health system.

It initially consisted of nine pillars with the tenth pillar added during last year’s summit. These include development of human resources; improving access to medicine, vaccines and health products; upgrading infrastructure; private sector engagement; quality healthcare; public sector financial management improvements; governance and leadership; community engagements; information systems and pandemic preparedness.

The compact also outlines the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder in ensuring that we succeed in building the health system that caters for everyone in this country in particular the poor.

Government and its partners are moving with speed to ensure these pillars are implemented in preparation for the rollout of the NHI. Government is confident that its partners share our goal of providing treatment to all citizens, irrespective of their financial status, in line with Section of 27 of our Constitution.

The task of improving and increasing access to healthcare is not the sole responsibility of government. Let us therefore use lessons learned from fighting the COVID-19 and ensure that we live up to the ideals of former President Nelson Mandela by ensuring that we work together in resolving and ultimately overcoming our challenges.