OPINION: Will mismanagement scupper S.A's National Health Insurance?

Professional management in the public health sector is a key factor if the implementation of a NHI is to stand any chance of success. Ailing state facilities can be turned around by proper management, as shown by the shining example of Frere Hospital in the Eastern Cape, where a new hospital manager turned what was a shambolic institution into something that resembles the Department of Health’s proposed ideal clinic model. But what if it is the provincial department that is incompetent? The negative impact of poor management is then spread over a much larger area.

A sterling example of failing management at a provincial level is the Xhariep District Hospital in Trompsburg, completed in 2013 at a cost of around R500-million to South African taxpayers. Subsequently, further great sums of money were spent on building staff housing in Trompsburg to accommodate nurses and doctors and on equipping the radiology department with state-of-the-art scanning and X-ray equipment. It is commendable of the Department of Public Works to deliver this fully equipped district hospital in Trompsburg, to serve a vital need in the area.

However, management failings at the Free State Department of Health led to not a single staff member currently working at the Xhariep district hospital. Three years later, the hospital remains closed and unused. The district’s need for a hospital was anecdotally proven by an accident that occurred on the adjacent N1 highway in December 2015. Five people died as a result of having to be transported 130km to Bloemfontein for emergency treatment instead of to the fully equipped hospital a mere 5km from the accident scene.

The severe lack of strategic planning, financial- and human resource management at the Free State Department of Health, unfortunately, is an example of what will lead to the undoing of government’s grand NHI design for South Africa. Political cadre deployment at operational levels of Government departments lead to incompetent and inept individuals being expected to perform in positions for which they are unqualified.

Currently, hospitals in South Africa have a similar bed capacity than that seen in 1976. The Competition Commission Health Market Inquiry indicates that, to the great chagrin of private medical funders, private hospital beds are increasing and are used to serve an obvious need in the community. At the same time, the number of public hospital beds are now below 1976 numbers. Government has not taken any of the necessary steps to increase the capacity of the South African public healthcare system, but, instead, is counting on the NHI to free up private capacity for public use.

What happens in the upcoming decade until NHI is implemented? South Africa cannot afford for all efforts to expand the public health service and keep the medical funding industry sustainable to grind to a complete halt in anticipation of the NHI. 

The NHI looks ever more unaffordable with every passing day as the South African economy flounders from one political crisis to the next. Can we afford to sit back and hope a new funding system will fix our dysfunctional public healthcare system a decade from now, or is it time to start taking some much needed action?

Author Dr Johann Serfontein is a member of the Free Market Foundation Health Policy Unit. he views expressed in the article are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Free Market Foundation.


Related Content

Rwanda’s quest to become an education hub

Following successful inception of different international higher learning institutions, Rwandan government is looking to attract more centres of excellence in the quest to become an education hub. One such is Carnegie Mellon University whose new campus valued at US$ 10 million was recently handed over to the Ministry of education for management.

Africa’s first ‘design lab’ launched in Kigali

A Nigerian based Co- Creation Hub has launched Africa’s first design lab in Kigali that is set to become a leading creative space in Africa’s growing tech sector. This platform is set aimed to solve Africa’s systemic problems in Public Health, Education, Governance and the Private Sector. CEO and Co-Founder of Bosun Tijani join CNBC Africa for more on this.

Watchdog finds that South Africans are paying too much for private healthcare, here’s why…

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africans are paying too much for private healthcare, the country’s antitrust watchdog said on Thursday, adding patients are sometimes prescribed...

Op-Ed: Why African families are larger than those of other continents

Gilles Pison | Sorbonne Universités In Africa women have 4.5 children on average, while in Asia the figure is 2.1 children, in Latin America 2.0, in North...

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up for free newsletters and get more CNBC AFRICA delivered to your inbox

More from CNBC Africa

Land Bank default forces S.Africa’s central bank into $200 mln bailout of state investment arm

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s central bank has issued a 3.45 billion rand ($200 million) guarantee to bail out the Corporation for...

Zimbabwe’s Landela agrees to buy state-owned gold mines, seeks more assets

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s Landela Mining Venture has reached agreements to take over and revive four idle state-owned gold mines and is...

How Zimbabwe farmers will be trained how to farm with a scheme from Belarus with love

When the farm invasions were unleashed by the people in power in 2000, it led to bloodshed and random confiscation that reaped a bitter harvest of lost production and exports that persists until this day. That year with all of its fumbling fury fuelled with the idea that to get rich you merely had to own a farm, is always seen as a turning point for the industry. It created a large slice of the country’s GDP and as it fell, so did the fortunes of Zimbabwe.

South Africa’s National Treasury says “no further action” to bailout SAA airline

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa’s National Treasury said on Friday there was “no further action” planned to bailout struggling national airline...

Partner Content

Sanlam launches urgent job-preservation initiative in response to COVID-19

Sanlam Investments is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic through large-scale support of the recovery of South African companies, from small enterprises to...

Is Market Volatility Here For The Foreseeable Future?

Content provided by CompareForexBrokers Prior to understanding why market volatility might be here to stay for the foreseeable future,...

Trending Now

Morocco’s RAM to axe routes, may reduce fleet to secure aid

RABAT (Reuters) - Moroccan airline Royal Air Maroc plans to cancel some air links, cut jobs and may sell 20 aircraft to...

Vedanta’s Zambia copper unit warns part of Nchanga open-pit mine about to collapse

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia’s Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), a unit of diversified miner Vedanta Resources, has closed part of its open-pit mine...

Old Mutual makes acting CEO permanent, a year after sacking predecessor

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Old Mutual said on Friday acting CEO Iain Williamson had been made permanent, ending a year of uncertainty over...

South Africa’s Capitec forecasts 70% profit fall in blow to shares

(Reuters) - Capitec Bank forecast a fall of at least 70% in first-half earnings on Friday due to a spike in bad...
- Advertisement -