The ANC has a plan to deal with the impact undocumented migrants have on the public health system, says Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, but you’re not likely to hear about it before the elections this year.
This follows several recent statements by ANC leadership, including Motsoaledi, concerning the strain imposed on public healthcare facilities by undocumented immigrants who, under the constitution, have as much right to public healthcare as any South African.
Speaking at the party’s briefing on education, health, science and technology yesterday, Motsoaledi echoed the long-standing argument from the Democratic Alliance (DA) that service delivery in South Africa has been ailed by the state’s failure to accurately record immigration numbers in South Africa.
“One of the weaknesses we have in South Africa is that, when we have migrants, they are not in a confined place monitored by international organisations. That is not the case in South Africa. There is no particular organisation in the country that may help them.”
Asked if there was a plan to have an integrated health system which incorporated undocumented immigrants, Motsoaledi was reluctant to go into detail.
“Yes, we do have a plan and we are going to outline it.
“We are processing the documents in the NHI [National Health Insurance] because there are international conventions that apply in that situation,” he replied. “I can’t go into it, but we have definitely got a plan which is based on the constitution, based on international conventions and based on practices done in countries that have got national health schemes like ourselves.”
These solutions, he said, would be modelled on healthcare systems such as that of the United Kingdom, on which South Africa’s NHI scheme is modelled.
In the UK, primary healthcare services are free to all, regardless of their immigration status. Secondary healthcare services are based on permanent residence and whether one is in the country lawfully.
A recent move by that government to ask doctors to report undocumented patients to immigration law enforcement agencies was met with outrage, with people claiming it would discourage undocumented immigrants from seeking life-saving medical care.
Commenting on the announcement, DA national spokesperson Solly Malatsi said expecting the NHI to solve the country’s public health system was overly ambitious.
“At this stage, we are currently dealing with healthcare facilities that don’t have an adequate number of doctors, medical interns not being paid and placed on time, and infrastructural collapse, so if we do implement the NHI in this current state, the problems will remain,” he said.