Stakeholders listening to an address by the provincial Minister for Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo.

Academics and young scientists from the College of Health Sciences (CHS) took part in a public debate in Durban between various stakeholders on the implementation of a National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme in South Africa.

Since the release of the Green Paper – the NHI’s draft policy – by the Department of Health (DoH) in August last year, several concerns and arguments have been raised by various stakeholders regarding the financing of the scheme.

The public forum presented an opportunity for all stakeholders to discuss a way forward that would embrace the country’s constitution in health infrastructure, development and maintenance; human resource planning, development and maintenance; quality of health services; and the re-engineering of the primary healthcare system.

A keynote address was delivered by UKZN alumnus and KwaZulu-Natal’s Minister for Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, who said: ‘Our driving force is the assertion that health is a public good.’

Dhlomo explained that until South Africa sorted out the HIV/TB pandemic, it would be difficult to win against maternal, new-born and childcare issues. He said the DoH was non-apologetic about introducing the NHI but there was a lot that government still needed to do before its implementation.

The seven principles of the NHI were: the right to access healthcare, social solidarity, effectiveness, appropriateness, equity, affordability, and efficiency.

Dhlomo said the quality of healthcare in the public sector had to improve dramatically. He stressed that health regulations should be in line with the country’s constitution, therefore public participation in policy-making was an integral part of democratic processes.

Mr Mark O’Flaherty, an Independent Financial Planner and CEO of the Proper Group, said although the country’s private healthcare sector was recognised as world-class, the inflation rate of medical aid schemes surpassed South African citizens’ annual salary increases and this could result in the service becoming unsustainable. He shed light on the expected impact of NHI on private healthcare financing.

Dr Bernhard Gaede, Director for the Centre for Rural Development (CRH) at UKZN, was one of the respondents at the forum. Gaede said the Rural Doctors Association of South Africa and the CRH looked forward to ways in which the NHI would improve access to appropriate health services, increase human resources, foster good governance and ensure the quality of care even for rural communities burdened with disease.

Registrars and other postgraduate students from CHS engaged in critical dialogue exploring the efficacy of an NHI to transform the country’s healthcare system