South African Government Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has provided 8 billion Rand to help develop the country’s National Insurance scheme, as part of the nation’s drive towards health reforms.
The money is part of a total amount of R113 billion which will cover a range of things including family health care teams, and improvements to maternal and child health care. Also announced in the new bill is an Office of Standards Compliance which is being given teeth to inspect and certify hospitals.
The Government also intends improving medical infrastructure in South Africa as well as expanding and improving medical practitioner training.
Speaking with reporters, Sandile Hlope, the director of health at accountants KPMG said: “The announcement of funding for the development of family health-care teams and allocation for the improvement of district-based maternal and child health services are significant. The minister is clearly signalling the introduction of step down facilities in an integrated NHI.”
Also welcoming the news was Heidi Kruger, who is the spokeswoman for the Board of Healthcare Funders. She said: “We feel that this may allow medical schemes to increasingly use these facilities for their membership and this will begin to address the costs associated with private hospitals. It could also mean competition for private hospitals.”
Some in South Africa are concerned about tax implications in the country. The finance minister is working with the Department of Health, and has warned that there will be cost implications. But a health economist, Alex van den Heever commented: “It is premature to start talking about tax increases on individuals in the current population. The public health spend in South Africa is consistent with international norms; it is exactly where it should be. What exactly is the additional tax for? This is not the highest priority.”