Al­ready miss­ing Manto

But guess who isn’t?

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THIS COL­UMN WILL miss Manto Tsha­bal­alaMsi­mang. As Health Min­is­ter she was a source of amaze­ment, from her weird al­ter­na­tive con­coc­tion to fight HIV/Aids to her ham-fisted at­tack on the pri­vate health­care sec­tor to those funny hats she wears. And she would of­ten cause havoc with sec­tors of share prices. Won­der if she’ll still be able to do that in the of­fice of the pres­i­dency?

But I’ll bet the pri­vate hospi­tal groups aren’t go­ing to miss her. They don’t like the idea of reg­u­la­tion and price cap­ping, but from what I could gather were pre­pared to de­bate is­sues. Med­i­cal inflation is too high, Gov­ern­ment is right to tackle it and pri­vate hospi­tal bosses and some doc­tors and spe­cial­ists seem to re­alise that. There’s com­mon ground that should work for all par­ties – but not in the brusque way Tsha­bal­alaMsi­mang was try­ing to do it.

As an aside, apart from be­ing ex­pen­sive, doc­tors in­fu­ri­ate me be­cause they have this idea their time is so pre­cious but your time doesn’t mat­ter at all. They’ll hap­pily leave you sit­ting in their wait­ing room for 30 min­utes or longer af­ter your ap­point­ment time, spend the first 15 min­utes on the phone to some other pa­tient in the time you’re pay­ing for when you fi­nally get in and then won­der why you get up­set.

But I’ve found a so­lu­tion. I pay doc­tors late – very late. When I start get­ting calls two or three months af­ter my visit, I po­litely re­mind them that my time is as valu­able as theirs and un­til they learn that I’ll keep pay­ing late. Doc­tors are very pay­ment sen­si­tive: they lis­ten closely when you tell them why they’re wait­ing for their pay­ment.

Bar­bara Ho­gan seems a good can­di­date to take over the Health Depart­ment. From what I’ve been able to as­cer­tain, she has no blotches on her long record as an MP and is re­garded as a hard worker. There’s much dam­age to re­pair but I think she can only be good for Health.

And she should of­fer some respite for pri­vate hospi­tal share prices, which have been ham­mered over the un­cer­tainty about health­care pol­icy.

There’s been no im­me­di­ate re­sponse to Tsha­bal­alaMsi­mang’s exit and Ho­gan’s en­trance. Prices of both Medi-Clinic and Net­care were down over the past week, but in our global fi­nan­cial cri­sis-wracked mar­ket that means lit­tle. But they have re­spec­tively lost about 20% and 30% over the past year, so there should be re­cov­ery. Both are good busi­nesses, be­dev­illed so far by ill­con­ceived health pol­i­tics. Brim­stone, on a low earn­ings mul­ti­ple un­der three times and gen­er­ous div­i­dend yield above 6%, is also an op­tion. It owns more than 20% of delisted Life Health­care, part of the port­fo­lio where per­for­mance ashould im­prove un­der the new health guard.

SHAUN HAR­RIS shaunh@fin­week.co.za

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