Home News Health minister pleads with doctors to stay as Ramaphosa signs NHI Bill into law

Health minister pleads with doctors to stay as Ramaphosa signs NHI Bill into law

by Zahid Jadwat

Health minister Joe Phaahla made a plea for doctors and health practitioners to remain in the country. This as President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill into law on Wednesday.

“There will be some challenges, but we believe that we will overcome all those obstacles. We want to invite all the roleplayers to join us in this journey and to become part of the solutions rather than be part of the obstacles,” he said, moments before Ramaphosa inked the contentious bill into law.

A number of healthcare practitioners have voiced opposition to the law, which aims to realise equal access to healthcare. They fear it may bring an already-challenged healthcare system to its knees, due to its potential annual cost of R1 trillion.

But Phaahla had a message for them: “Don’t listen to the doomsayers”. He said there were some out there who were “scaremongering” by “telling them things are going to collapse”.


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NHI unsuitable

Speaking in an interview on Salaamedia on Tuesday, Dr. Mvuyisi Mzukwa, chairperson of the South African Medical Association (SAMA), was doubtful the country was ready to implement a scheme like the NHI.

He pointed to water provision as one of the small fish that could not be caught, wondering how something much larger, such as the NHI, could be implemented.

“This is something that was promised 30 years ago; it has not been achieved. If you can’t achieve a simple water issue, how can you attend to a complex issue like healthcare?”

“Many clinics don’t have infrastructure [and] they don’t qualify in terms of … healthcare standards compliance. There are many issues that have been identified. It will make it very difficult to just implement without capacitating those local facilities in the communities,” he added.

But Phaahla was adamant the NHI was a necessary step towards correcting the wrongs of the past.

“Within our context, historically healthcare costs have unfairly burdened most vulnerable members of our society for a long period. Families have faced agonising decisions, sometimes having to choose between basic necessities and the necessary medical care.”

Ramaphosa signed the bill into law in a ceremony at the Union Buildings, Pretoria, on Wednesday. This was just two weeks before the country was set to go to the polls.

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