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THE Gauteng Department of Health has been allocated R50.8 billion for the 2019/2020 financial year, this being one of the largest allocations in the provincial government.
While this is a significant investment to the improvement of the province’s public health care system, it is also important to understand the socio-economic and political context of this province.
Although geographically smaller than other provinces, the Gauteng population is the largest in the country at approximately 14.7 million.
The reality is that most of the people in the province depend on the government for most social services, including public health care.
Gauteng is also significantly affected by increasing migration patterns from other provinces, and other countries on the continent.
Its highly congested nature impacts government services such as public healthcare – as the needs tend to exceed capacity at a given time.
Taking this into consideration, this financial year’s budget vote streamlines the resources of the department in a way that the five priority areas that have been identified for this current administration are adequately resourced and that the transformation of public health in Gauteng happens successfully.
The posture of the health department in Gauteng is one that is premised on ushering in National Health Insurance (NHI) through our administration of our priority areas. We are convinced the interventions that we will be making in the next few months will align with the goal to see the implementation of NHI. It is very important to note that NHI is a funding model that will address unequal access to health care.
It is aimed at addressing the inaccessibility of health services due to people not having enough money or insurance to meet their health needs. Essentially, it is expected the NHI will ensure the country’s private and public health care system operates as a people-centred system transcending socio-economic class barriers.
The context of high unemployment coupled with increasing climate change will heighten vulnerability and poverty levels, resulting in more people moving towards urban centres.
The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs predicts that by 2050 68% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas – as one of the biggest in Africa, Gauteng will be impacted and expected to respond to this phenomenon which is likely to cause constraints on the social services offered by the state.
In ushering in the NHI, it is crucial that implementation draws strategically from the private sector, to the extent that a harmonious relationship exists between the sectors.
Specifically speaking, the one approach is to engage medical professionals, particularly specialists in the private sector to avail themselves for providing services in public hospitals to alleviate the pressure on our staff.
Second, the department will engage some private hospitals to make theatre space and equipment available and shorten the waiting times for surgical operations. Both these interventions address our priority areas – improving staff morale and patient experience.
In our departmental budget we have also allocated more than R6 billion towards the improvement of our clinical services – which include HIV/ Aids and tuberculosis prevention and treatment, mental health, improving primary healthcare and Emergency Medical Services.
Dr Masuku is Gauteng’s Health MEC.