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President’s blueprint for fixing public healthcare unveiled

PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa has unveiled his long-awaited blueprint for fixing the ailing public healthcare sector, promising to fill more posts, increase funding for the health ombudsman, and boost the number of new specialists by letting the private sector get involved in training.

The plan is the product of a two-day health summit convened by the President last October which drew 600 high-level delegates from the public and private healthcare sectors, as well as labour and civil society organisations. The aim was to come up with ideas to quickly fix some of the most pressing problems confronting the public health system, which is grappling with staff shortages, dilapidated equipment, medicine shortages and corruption.

The Presidential Health Compact was signed at George Mukhari Academic Hospital in Tshwane yesterday by key stakeholders who attended the summit, including Business Unity SA, Nedlac, statutory bodies and the government. Ramaphosa said in a speech delivered at the event that the signing of the Presidential Health Compact is part of efforts to deepen co-operative and collaborative governance.

He said that through collaboration we will be able to pool our knowledge, finances, human capital and other resources. Ramaphosa said the Department of Science & Technology was working with the Department of Trade & Industry, along with the science councils, to establish an active pharmaceutical ingredients technology innovation cluster, to support the development of domestic pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity. This will have significant consequences for access to medicines into the future, he said.

The Presidential Health Compact undertakes to have ready a new human resources strategy by the end of 2019 and to lift the moratorium on filling critical posts in the public health system. It proposes implementing a national, centralised procurement system for medicines and medical equipment, and a new system for conducting health technology assessments, to gauge whether medicines and devices offer value for money. It also proposes allowing the private sector to train medical specialists, whose training is currently restricted to public hospitals. Unions have agreed to a review of the system that allows state-employed doctors to do additional work in the private sector.

The system has been poorly managed in many parts of the country. According to the Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize, frozen posts would be unfrozen, and critical posts would be filled. He said we need to precipitate the expansion of nursing colleges and train more nurses to be deployed into communities as well as strengthen the contingency of community-based doctors.

Mkhize also said the Health Compact would assist in the implementation of critical tasks, such as providing the financing model for the NHI as well as infrastructure upgrading for health facilities to enable the rollout of the NHI in the next phase of implementation.

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