Citizen Reporter
3 minute read
18 Oct 2021
5:37 pm

Solidarity launches PAIA application regarding NHI

Citizen Reporter

The application comes after the Department's deputy DG Nicholas Crisp allegedly said the NHI would come into effect by the end of 2021.

Solidarity launches PAIA application regarding NHI. Picture - iStock.

Solidarity has launched an application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) in connection with the controversial remarks made by the Health Department’s deputy director-general, Dr Nicholas Crisp.

The application comes after Crisp allegedly stated on 30 August that the National Health Insurance (NHI) would come into effect by the end of the year.

Solidarity then addressed a legal letter to Crisp in September this year for more clarity, but he did not respond.

The organisation says it is now compelled to take legal steps because Crisp’s remarks were causing significant uncertainty among its members in the healthcare sector and elsewhere.

“It is extremely irresponsible of a civil servant to make such statements while we are still in the middle of a public participation process,” said the head of the Solidarity Research Institute (SRI), Connie Mulder.

Mulder said Crisp’s decision to ignore requests for clarity indicates the “government is contemptuous of these processes and merely tries to steamroll these policies.”

Currently, there’s no information about the potential effect of implementing the controversial NHI.

“What would this mean for members of medical aid funds? What would this mean for healthcare workers? How would this differ from the current state of affairs?” asked Mulder.

“The department has simply not given any indication of what this would mean for South Africans, even though health is something that directly affects every single person,” she added.

According to the government, the NHI health financing system will pool funds together to provide access to quality
and affordable personal health services to all South Africans based on their health needs, irrespective of their socio-economic status.

“It is a fund that will pay for health care for all South Africans, there will be no fees charged at the health facility because the NHI fund will cover the costs of your care,” said the Health Department in a booklet titled Understanding the NHI.

The booklet goes on to explain that the NHI is “exactly what medical aids schemes are doing but with two notable differences.”

1. This health insurance will cover every South African, employed or unemployed, earning a low income or high income.
2: The socio-economic status of members of the public will not influence the type of healthcare received but it will be influenced by the condition of the patient’s health. There are no limited benefits because of the patient’s salary or employment status.

Solidarity says its research has already indicated significant shortcomings in the proposed systems.

Solidarity launches PAIA application regarding NHI
National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) picket outside the Netcare head offices in Johannesburg, 18 October 2019, against increasing costs in the private healthcare industry and part of their campaign to support the National Health Insurance Bill. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

“More than 85% of the healthcare workers who participated in a study of the SRI indicated the implementation of the NHI would lead to healthcare workers leaving the country,” said Mulder.

If this is the case, South Africa’s medical staff shortage will only worsen, and quality and specialist healthcare services will be extremely scarce.

“Dr Crisp did not provide any information on what will change for medical specialists, and this increases uncertainty,” Mulder said.

Solidarity is estimating the NHI will leave the country with a deficit of R112 billion.

“South Africa simply cannot afford this, yet there is a resounding silence from the government about the specifics of how the NHI will be funded,” said Mulder.

If the government chooses to borrow money to fund the NHI, the country’s citizens will be paying higher taxes.

“The NHI will make South Africa a sicker and poorer country. The fact that Dr Crisp thinks the government can simply impose such harmful and controversial legislation despite input, feedback, and logic are disconcerting,” said Mulder.

Solidarity said it’s wary of government using the “immediate effect” tactic seen during the pandemic to “suddenly impose” the highly contested NHI on an unsuspecting public.

“We will not tolerate it. We demand answers about the future of healthcare, and we will force the government to provide these answers,” Mulder concluded.

(Compiled by Narissa Subramoney)

NOW READ: Role of medical aids in NHI still unclear – Discovery