Discovery Health CEO Ryan Noach and the South African Medical Association warned that the NHI risks chasing doctors and other healthcare professionals out of the country.
Noach said the planned National Health Insurance (NHI) creates a negative sentiment among healthcare professionals, which can damage the healthcare sector.
“In the short term, we believe the biggest risk of the NHI Bill is medical professionals leaving South Africa,” he said. “It creates a negative sentiment among healthcare professionals.”
“Unfortunately, medical professionals in the public sector are battling a poorly managed system. It has been demonstrated repeatedly.”
Professionals working in the private sector are very concerned about the health policy direction taken by the government.
“There is a real short to medium-term risk to healthcare professionals. We are seeing early signs of that,” he said. “The doctors are very concerned, along with other healthcare professionals.”
“We are doing all we can to calm the healthcare professionals, partner with them, and reassure them. We are confident the outcome can be optimistic.”
Last year, the South African Medical Association (SAMA) also warned that thousands of doctors would leave the country ahead of the planned introduction of the NHI.
The not-for-profit group, representing the interests of more than 12,000 medical doctors in South Africa, said that its members do not support the NHI in its current form.
This is because of a deep-rooted lack of confidence in the capacity of the government and its financial ability to ensure the service’s success.
A survey conducted by SAMA showed that up to 38% of its members plan to emigrate from South Africa due to the planned introduction of the NHI.
A number of doctors have said that the focus should first be on fixing the public sector to a point where it can begin to appeal to private-sector patients.
Noach’s comments followed South Africa’s National Assembly passing the National Health Insurance Bill, which will introduce universal health insurance.
The Department of Health explained that National Health Insurance would provide good healthcare for all by sharing the money available for healthcare among all our people.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla said 16% of the population with private medical insurance account for 51% of national expenditure on medical treatment.
The balance of the money is spent on the other 84% of the population who rely solely on the public health system.
“This has led to a situation where the public health system is under tremendous pressure, while the private health care is over-servicing its clients,” he said.
The NHI Bill aims to ensure universal access to healthcare where “health benefits will depend on how sick you are, not on how wealthy you are”.