One of the tragic realities of our time is that access to decent and quality health services is determined by someone’s ability to pay for it, says Cyril Ramaphosa.
The president says in his weekly newsletter one of the main reasons why the health care system in the country needs to be reformed is that all South Africans have equal access to medical services.
Ramaphosa says the country currently has two parallel healthcare systems. About R250 billion is spent annually on the first, to provide medical services to less than 20% of the population.
This is the private medical services sector.
R200 billion is spent on the rest of the population. This is the public medical services sector.
“It goes against the Constitution which states that all South Africans are entitled to health services, regardless of their social and economic situation.
“This is a situation we can no longer afford. It is ineffective and not sustainable.
“It’s also not fair,” the president writes.
He says the implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI) will be among the most significant social change the country has undergone since 1994.
“We have enough resources in the country to provide for every man, woman, and child with medical services that meet the standards and quality.
“Our past shows us that we cannot be a country where the interests of a small particle (of the population) can be put at the expense of the majority.
“In 1713, when there was an outbreak of measles in the Cape, the Dutch colonists imported medicine from Batavia.
“They only made the medicine available to their own people and allowed the Khoi-San natives to be thinned out by the disease,” Ramaphosa says.
“The separation of health services brings sad memories. In the 18th century it was based on the settler status of the colonists, and under apartheid it was determined by your skin color.
“Today it is done on the basis of who can afford it.”
The main principles of the NHI are “equality, solidarity and the acceptance, recognition, and right of the importance of each individual to receive cost-effective medical services”.
The rising cost of medical services affects all South Africans. A recent study shows private medical services are also under severe pressure as premiums rise and benefits are reduced. In addition, patients increasingly have to pay out of their own pockets.
“As a country, we spend a large part of our budget on health services. Yet there is a fundamental imbalance between what we spend and the health of the nation’s citizens. Just as we claim quality medical services for ourselves and our family, so should we for others. ”
The president has asked South Africans to seize the NHI – which should be ready by 2025 – and take part in the public talks that will take place nationwide.
“We cannot become a prosperous and economically prosperous nation if a small minority of our workforce is healthy and the majority are vulnerable to ill health and illness.
“In this regard, the NHI is not only a health issue but also part of the fight for social justice,” the president writes.