South Africa

NHI Bill will chase doctors out of South Africa

The South African Medical Association (SAMA) and others have warned about an exodus of doctors from South Africa because of the looming National Health Insurance (NHI).

On Wednesday, the National Council of Provinces passed the NHI Bill at a sitting in Cape Town.

The NHI seeks to ensure all South Africans have access to quality healthcare services and provides for the establishment of a fund for this purpose.

The NHI fund will be used to pay for almost all treatment from accredited providers, with rates to be set by the state.

Private medical aid providers can only pay for products and services that the fund does not cover.

The Bill will now be referred to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who can either sign it into law or request lawmakers to amend it.

Many organisations, including SAMA, warned that the NHI Bill will chase medical professionals out of South Africa.

SAMA said it is deeply concerned about the passing of the NHI Bill despite numerous objections by the organisation.

It said the bill excluded suggestions by medical professionals, including doctors, which poses a risk of an exodus of these sought-after skills from the country.

Without healthcare professionals’ buy-in, the chance of success for the planned national health insurance is slim.

SAMA chairperson Mvuyisi Mzukwa
SAMA chairperson Mvuyisi Mzukwa

SAMA chairperson Mvuyisi Mzukwa told SABC News they support the concept of universal healthcare but disputed whether the NHI Bill will achieve this goal.

He pointed to the crumbling public healthcare system, with dilapidated hospitals, a lack of resources, and a shortage of qualified staff.

SAMA previously said the NHI Bill had been developed with disregard for the legitimate concerns and experts’ recommendations.

It ignored critical issues like introducing contracting units for primary healthcare, benefits packages, and reimbursement models.

It added that medical professionals do not trust the government to manage the budget of over R500 billion efficiently.

“Misappropriation of funds in various state-owned entities casts doubt on the government’s ability to handle the healthcare budget responsibly,” it said.

“The public, alongside healthcare stakeholders, cannot entrust their lives to a government with an established history of financial mismanagement.”

It argued that the NHI Bill in its current form sets up the healthcare system for failure and will hurt everyone living in the country.

Trade union Solidarity said the NHI Bill will affect the prospects of healthcare workers and medical staff to such an extent that they will consider emigration.

They also cautioned that a health care system left in the hands of those who have wrecked Eskom, Transnet and SAA will cost human lives.

Ryan Noach
Discovery Health CEO Ryan Noach

Discovery Health CEO Ryan Noach also warned that the NHI risks chasing doctors and other healthcare professionals out of the country.

Noach said the planned 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.”


Top JSE indices