Intensify implementation of NHI as tribute to Dr Sefularo
OUR role models inspire us. 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 was a reality.
As one of the forefathers of NHI, rather than cling to his heart, the deputy health minister saw with his mind the opportunities and possibilities of a healthy nation. In this sense, he was a true pioneer and a visionary leader who did not flinch from the responsibility of leadership.
He was intellectually 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.
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-Aids treatment and reduce the incidence of tuberculosis and malaria.
As one of the authors of the NHI white paper, he wanted to see affordable healthcare for all a national priority. His experience, charisma and leadership is being sorely missed.
One of the sharpest medical minds in the country, Dr Sefularo did not hesitate to introduce new ideas to infuse vigour into the country’s health system.
He realised that the health system was not serving the poor and he was determined to change this without destroying those aspects of the system which were working.
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.
As health MEC in North West, Dr Sefularo ensured that his province implemented the programme to prevent mother to child transmission of the virus.
As a highly skilled and eloquent leader who made a crucial contribution to fix the broken health system inherited from apartheid rulers. Earnest, but with an easy smile, Dr Sefularo always spoke in a measured tone and took his time to make a point.
Asked during an interview with The Star, on how South Africans could trust political in making medical cover accessible to all, he said: “The biggest responsibility we all have is to use this time to build firmer foundations and systems and to ensure that these systems are so robust that they withstand any change in leadership.”
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. Dr 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 actually 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 cares about helping people. He was also courteous, self- effacing and put his gifts at the service of our country without seeking personal gain.
When the true history of the health industry is written, the name of Dr Sefularo will be written in gold.
We have to honour him by continuing where he left off. How can we do that?
We need to make accessible, affordable healthcare, 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 healthcare reform in South Africa is not going to be a smooth ride, but it is exactly what the country needs to achieve universal healthcare coverage.
For us, PPP by definition is to be a win-win proposition for all the people involved.
There is an opportunity to ensure more effective high quality delivery is only going to be achieved if there is a close partnership between the public and private sectors.
As Dr 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 NHI is implemented as Dr Sefularo envisaged, the NHI will contract directly with healthcare service providers and a central NHI fund will pay for services that are covered. Private medical aids presently cover about 8.7 million South Africans. Once the NHI is implemented this figure will more than likely double.
Dr Sefularo was a true visionary, a beautiful talented soul, brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world and talented enough to do it.
The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact, Dr Sefularo has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come.
BETTER ACCESS TO HEALTH: Implementation of NHI aims to reduce the HIV infection rate among other things.