The Democratic Alliance (DA) has taken note of the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize’s statement seeking to downplay the disastrous effects that the newly introduced NHI Bill. This Bill will have a catastrophic effect on our health services and the economy, however the Minister seeks to downplay this.
It is clear the Minister is playing politics with this Bill and the intention is not to solve the deep inequalities in the health system. We agree with the Minister that we need reform and that universal healthcare is the way to achieve this, but he is completely misguided if he believes that NHI will provide affordable, quality and sustainable universal healthcare for all.
Mkhize’s statement slams the DA for questioning the clear overreach of the Bill by stating that it has been scrutinized by his department. What he clearly misunderstands is the role that Parliament has in holding the executive to account. Parliament is not here to simply rubber stamp problematic and often disastrous pieces of legislation. That is why, DA Leader, Mmusi Maimane has called on the Speaker of Parliament to do its work and ascertain whether this Bill is not in contravention of Schedule 4 of the Constitution which gives both National and Provincial departments concurrent powers to administer healthcare.
The DA is not just obsessed with this constitutional question on spurious grounds. There are legitimate reasons why the Constitution and indeed the National Healthcare Act have divided responsibilities the way that has been done. Governments need to be accountable to the people we serve. A centralized and nationalised health system will lead to poor health outcomes, little accountability, and a sluggish system which is bound to the be final nail on the coffin of our healthcare in the country.
Clearly out of ideas, Mkhize accuses the DA of seeking to maintain the status quo and some how protecting the privileged through our opposition of this Bill. This is simply false. The DA unequivocally supports universal healthcare for all South Africans. That is why we have developed a workable alternative to NHI, Sizani, that will achieve universal healthcare without collapsing the economy and health services in the country. In fact under Sizani, we would be able to bridge the gap between those who have been excluded by the systematic failures of the ANC government for the past 25 years.
The Bill introduced to Parliament last week has these fundamental problems:
- it seeks to establish another State Owned Enterprise that will be worth billions of rands placed in the hands of the politically connected. This Bill will give the Minister unvetted powers and in control of the entire health system.
- The Bill completely centralizes the provision of healthcare by placing the management of all central hospitals under the national department. This will lead to the nationalization of healthcare and is a clear erosion of provincial powers.
- The Bill seeks to fragment the health system. This will inevitably will bring normal functioning systems to a grinding halt, and take power and decision making further away from people, not closer to them.
- The financing model of this Bill will mean the imposition of a new tax on ordinary South Africans to fund this new SOE. Ordinary South Africans have been squeezed dry by government and cannot be subjected to yet another tax.
- This Bill removes the autonomy of South Africans to choose their own healthcare. It mandates the national department of health as the sole provider of healthcare in the country while all private healthcare providers will be contracted by the state. This will, no doubt, lead to massive brain drain and erosion of talent in our health system. Doctors and health professionals will seek opportunity beyond our borders.
If the Minister is serious about debating the introduction the DA is more than happy to meet with the Minister to debate and share ideas to fix our ailing health system. For us, it is not about scoring cheap political points, but the health of millions of South Africans are on the line.
Siviwe Gwarube MP
DA Shadow Minister of Health
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