Health Min­is­ter Dr Aaron Mot­soaledi

The Star Early Edition - - POLITICS -

TO­DAY, July 18, marks the birth­day of the father of our new South African na­tion, Nel­son Man­dela.

Many peo­ple through­out the coun­try will en­gage in one no­ble cause or an­other to help the less for­tu­nate among us and to pro­mote the good in all of us in hon­our of Madiba, an icon of all that is good in hu­man­ity – love, jus­tice, free­dom and equal­ity.

For our part as the De­part­ment of Health, the best way to hon­our Man­dela and keep his legacy alive is to move with speed to im­ple­ment the Na­tional Health In­sur­ance (NHI), a health fi­nanc­ing plan that will en­sure qual­ity health care to all South Africans re­gard­less of their so­cial or eco­nomic sta­tus.

It is not a se­cret that Man­dela loved ev­ery­body, in­clud­ing those who had po­si­tioned them­selves as his en­e­mies.

But he had a spe­cial space in his big heart for chil­dren. The huge par­ties that he hosted for chil­dren, mainly from dis­ad­van­taged back­ground, in his home vil­lage of Qunu in the Eastern Cape ev­ery De­cem­ber be­came an­nual cal­en­dar events for var­i­ous me­dia houses and some busi­ness peo­ple who sought to im­press Man­dela by do­nat­ing Christ­mas gifts to the chil­dren.

Be­cause of his undy­ing love for chil­dren, Man­dela raised funds to build a state of the art hospi­tal for chil­dren. The fa­cil­ity was com­pleted af­ter his death.

It is clear that Man­dela val­ued the pro­vi­sion of health care as cru­cially im­por­tant.

So, dur­ing times like these when we, as a col­lec­tive, re­flect on his self­less con­tri­bu­tion to the bet­ter­ment of so­ci­ety him and try our best to keep his legacy alive, we should give him a re­port about how we are mov­ing to cre­ate a bet­ter qual­ity of live for all, par­tic­u­larly chil­dren, the most vul­ner­a­ble in our so­ci­ety.

We are proud to tell Man­dela, the undis­puted cham­pion of the vul­ner­a­ble and the poor, that we, in­spired by the Con­sti­tu­tion that or­ders us to give health care to all peo­ple, have launched the NHI.

We can re­port that while the white pa­per on NHI has just been adopted by the cab­i­net, we had al­ready started help­ing chil­dren through the NHI-re­lated ini­tia­tives.

Some of the de­liv­er­ables we have made in pur­su­ing your dream of a bet­ter life in­clude the fol­low­ing:

The mother-to-child trans­mis­sion of HIV rate has de­creased from 8% in 2008 to less than 1.5% in 2016.

This means that a sig­nif­i­cantly smaller num­ber of in­fants are born with HIV. As well, the in­sti­tu­tional ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity rate (moth­ers who die giv­ing birth in health fa­cil­i­ties) has also de­clined.

This is im­por­tant as we know that in­fants are more likely to sur­vive and thrive if their moms are present.

In­sti­tu­tional ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity has de­clined from 190/100 000 live births in 2009 to 127/100 000 in 2015.

As a re­sult largely of the sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of peo­ple liv­ing with HIV be­ing on ARVs, the life ex­pectancy of South Africans has in­creased.

STAT­SSA re­ported that male life ex­pectancy in 2010 was 56.5 years which in­creased to 61.9 years in 2015; fe­male life ex­pectancy was 61.2 years in 2010 and rose to 67.7 years in 2015.

But for us as the De­part­ment of Health, the big project re­verse the legacy of apartheid in health and in­equal­ity is the NHI.

For ages, the apartheid sys­tem ne­glected black ar­eas and pro­vided poor qual­ity health care in black towns and town­ships.

Through the NHI, we are sys­tem­at­i­cally re­vers­ing this. One of the pil­lars of the NHI is pri­mary health care. This means that our peo­ple who live in ru­ral ar­eas would not need to travel long dis­tances to hos­pi­tals where they would most likely stand in long queues.

The sick would visit the nearby clin­ics. We are cur­rently en­gaged in a mas­sive in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme whereby we are re­fur­bish­ing clin­ics and build­ing new ones to en­sure that all our peo­ple have ac­cess to good qual­ity health care.

Through the NHI pro­gramme, we have de­vel­oped the con­cept on an ideal clinic. We have al­ready launched sev­eral pi­lot projects for an ideal clinic. One of the no­tice­able dif­fer­ence be­tween the ideal clinic and an or­di­nary clinic at the mo­ment is the avail­abil­ity of a doc­tor at the ideal clinic.

The avail­abil­ity of a med­i­cal doc­tor at a clinic will go a long way to im­prove the qual­ity level of health care pro­vi­sion at lo­cal area. This will also help boost the con­fi­dence that our peo­ple would have in the sys­tem. The re­sult is that we will be able to re­duce long queues in our hos­pi­tals as some of the ser­vices would be of­fered at the clinic level.

The other pil­lar of the NHI is a strong fo­cus on pre­ven­tion.

Through the NHI pro­gramme, we are rolling out a mas­sive pre­ven­tion pro­gramme. Al­though we have been able to put more than 3,6 mil­lion on ARV pro­gramme, the truth is that there is cur­rently no cure for Aids and pre­ven­tion re­mains the most ef­fec­tive tool to keep our peo­ple healthy.

In this re­gard, we have in­vested lots of re­sources to­wards bet­ter qual­ity free con­doms and their bet­ter dis­tri­bu­tion through­out the coun­try.

We are spend­ing lots of money to pro­mote a healthy life­style.

Through var­i­ous cam­paigns, we have launched ini­tia­tives aimed at dis­cour­ag­ing our peo­ple, es­pe­cially the youth, from smok­ing and the ex­ces­sive use of al­co­hol. We also launched a pro­gramme to teach our peo­ple about the dan­gers of sugar and salt.

While all these ini­tia­tives are no­ble ges­tures to im­prove the qual­ity of life, they re­main sec­ondary. The pri­mary fo­cus in the ef­forts to im­prove health care pro­vi­sion is al­lo­ca­tion of re­sources.

Money is at the cen­tre of health care. Cur­rently too much money is be­ing spent on too few peo­ple and this legacy of apartheid that Man­dela and oth­ers like him fought so hard against, must change.

The NHI is that fund­ing mech­a­nism that equalises the pro­vi­sion of health care be­tween the haves and havenots.

The NHI is the ef­fec­tive tool that re­verses apartheid plan­ning that sought to con­demn the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple to ill-equipped and un­der­staffed hos­pi­tals while the mi­nor­ity, the rich, had ex­clu­sive use of the best med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties in the coun­try.

Eq­uity is what Man­dela fought for. Let us keep his legacy by pro­mot­ing eq­uity in health care.

NHI is our an­swer to ad­dress the in­equity in health.

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