Western Cape punts its model for public healthcare

SHARING IT OUT: Western Cape health MEC Theuns Botha briefs media on the allocation of the province’s health budget yesterday. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

Western Cape health MEC Theuns Botha says the introduction of the NHI will be a challenge for the province but says theWestern Capeis able to share its experiences and successes with the rest of the country

Although theWestern Capedoes not support the National Health Insurance (NHI) green paper in its current form, that does not mean the province will not participate in the NHI pilot projects, health MEC Theuns Botha said yesterday.

About half a million people in the Western Cape stand to benefit from the rollout of the NHI pilot project due to start next month.

Last week, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced thatEdenDistrictMunicipality(which includesMosselBayand Knysna) would be one of 10 sites selected for the pilot project.

Dr Motsoaledi said the public could expect ageneralimprovement in the quality of healthcare and health infrastructure.

Speaking to reporters yesterday before his budget vote speech in the legislature, Mr Botha said the introduction of the NHI would be a challenge for the province. But he said theWestern Capewas able to share its experiences and successes with the rest of the country, which could improve the quality of healthcare.

Mr Botha said an alternative solution to NHI proposed by theWestern Capegovernment was universal healthcare.

The proposal was built on a primary healthcare basis — similar to the structures operating in the province at present — where patients are referred to regional and specialised facilities according to their needs, and the government provides the transport, Mr Botha said.

Delivering his budget vote speech in the legislature, Mr Botha said the provincial government was of the view that the key to any public sector healthcare reform in SA was a “well functioning” health system “as currently exemplified by theWestern Cape”.

The province has a healthcare budget allocation of R14,6bn for the 2012-13 financial year.

He said the budget although increasing in nominal terms, was not adequate.

The bulk of province’s R39,8bn budget went to social spending, with health accounting for 36,7% and education 35,7%. The health department would be allocated about R16bn in 2013-14, and close to R17bn in 2014-15, which amounts to about R47bn over the three-year 2012 medium term expenditure framework.

“The gap between the need for health services and the available resources remains the challenge and increases the need to increase efficiency, work smarter and reprioritise services within the existing baseline allocation,” Mr Botha said.

In addition to providing health services, the department would strengthen its advocacy role to ensure the “upstream factors” which contribute to the burden of disease were addressed by departments and stakeholders.

Mr Botha said improving healthcare remained central to the business of the department.

Prof Craig Househam, head of the province’s health department, said the department was “fortunate” in that it got the largest chunk of the province’s budget.

He echoed Mr Botha’s sentiments regarding the gap between money allocated and real needs, and said the challenge was to manage funds “tightly”. Prof Househam said the department would focus on improving healthcare in the next three years.

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