Sefularo deserves the honour that is NHI
INNOVATIVE and creative leaders stimulate creativity and innovation. As one of the pioneers of the National Health Insurance (NHI), the late Dr Molefi Sefularo dreamt of the time when medical aid cover for every citizen would be a reality.
As one of the forefathers of NHI, Sefularo, as the deputy health minister, saw in his mind the opportunities and possibilities of a healthy nation.
He was a true pioneer and a visionary leader who did not flinch from the responsibility of leadership.
He was brilliant, passionate in his commitment to health justice, impeccable in his integrity, visionary in his outlook, impatient with the status quo and deeply compassionate towards those in need.
He was bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it.
Seven years after his death, our greatest tribute to this diminutive doctor who died in a car accident on April 6, 2010 should not only be through an annual Dr Molefi Sefularo Memorial Lecture, but by also intensifying the implementation of the NHI and programmes to decrease infant and maternal mortality rates and HIV infection, expand HIV and Aids treatment and reduce the incidence of tuberculosis and malaria.
One of the sharpest medical minds in the country, Sefularo did not hesitate to introduce new ideas into the country’s health system, which he realised was not serving the poor.
Teaming up with Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, he was intimately involved in drafting the NHI white paper and the establishment of several projects, including the campaign to test at least 15 million people for HIV.
And, as Health MEC in North West, Sefularo ensured that his province implemented the programme to prevent mother to child transmission of the virus.
As was a highly skilled and eloquent leader who made a crucial contribution to fix the broken health system inherited from apartheid rulers.
He understood and appreciated the challenges facing the country’s health system. He worked tirelessly and selflessly to ensure that change was effected for the betterment of our people.
Few people can claim the perspective earned from a lifetime of experience in one field. Sefularo was one of those unique individuals.
As a fellow student at then Medical University of South Africa, now Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, I remember him as one of those students that you looked forward to talking to.
His smile was kind and reached out from his eyes to focus directly on the person he was with. It was clear that he cared about helping people.
He was courteous, self-effacing and put his gifts at the service of our country without seeking personal gain.
We have to honour him by continuing where he left off. How can we do that? We need to make accessible, affordable health care a national priority through public private partnerships (PPPs), a key feature of the South African healthcare landscape under the NHI.
We at AfroCentric Group and our sister companies such as Medscheme and others, understand that health-care reform in South Africa is not going to be a smooth ride, but it is what the country needs to achieve universal health care coverage.
For us, PPPs give an opportunity to ensure more effective high quality delivery that is only going to be achieved if there is a close partnership between the public and private sectors.
As Sefularo believed, partnerships will ensure quality assurance in health provision.
The technology will be updated, while capacity building will not only concentrate on public providers, but the private formal and non-formal providers will benefit too.
At the moment, about 80% of the income of private hospitals, specialists, doctors and other healthcare service providers is derived from medical aid members.
If the National Health Insurance plan is implemented as Sefularo envisaged, it will contract directly with healthcare service providers and a central NHI Fund will pay for services that are covered.
Private medical aids currently cover about 8.7 million South Africans.
Once the NHI is implemented, this figure will more than likely double.
Dr Mokgokong is chairperson of AfroCentric Group and Community Investment Holdings, owners of Medscheme and other health care providers. She studied medicine with Dr Molefi Sefularo.