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South Africa to Convene with UK Health Officials for Advice on NHI

Posted on Oct 05, 2010 by Sergio Ulloa ()  | Tags: National Health Service, South Africa, South Africa National Health Insurance

With the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, preparing to institute a National Health Insurance (NHI) program in the next few years, South African government health officials are set to meet with their UK counterparts to learn from their experiences. The African National Congress released some of the details of their proposal for a National Health Insurance scheme towards the end of September, and the proposal is still being debated by the ANC's National General Council. The intention is to create a modern single payer healthcare system which can provide adequate care to all South African citizens, regardless of ability to pay. The South African National Health Insurance scheme, while still being adjusted, will start to be implemented in 2012, for which officials have budgeted ZAR 12 billion (USD 1.7 billion) in the first year. After its start date in 2012, the scheme is set to be rolled out in phases over the next 14 years, and will also include large investments in the nation's healthcare infrastructure and medical professionals. This week, South Africa's health officials will be meeting with United Kingdom officials, including the former Chief Executive of the NHS, Lord Nigel Crisp, to share information and discuss how to maintain quality in the healthcare system. The Director General of South Africa's National Department of Health, Precious Matoso, said over the weekend that the UK was "a good example of a country that has dealt successfully with problems of quality in the health care system." Lord Nigel Crisp will also be joined by Dr. Nicola Brewer, the British High Commissioner to South Africa for what has been described by the South African Government as an "international consultative workshop". The meeting will be focused on trying to ensure public healthcare services maintain appropriate standards of quality and patient safety, while instituting an equitable and sustainable healthcare delivery system. The South African Health Department has said that "We are cognisant of the fact that challenges in the delivery of health services are not unique to South Africa and that many lessons can be learnt from other countries that have experienced similar problems in the past and have turned the corner," During the meeting, the two sets of officials will endeavor to set benchmarks for standards in areas of priority to promote patient safety, namely preventing and controlling infections, reducing waiting times, working towards the availability of medicines, encouraging positive attitudes from healthcare workers, as well as instilling values and motivation in the healthcare workforce. The Health Department of South Africa recognizes that "From previous discussions we have recognised the existence of gaps in our approach to ensuring that this (healthcare) right is achieved. These gaps include, amongst other things, infrastructure backlogs, challenges in implementing quality improvement strategies and accreditation programmes for our health facilities and human resource shortages." While these and other deliberations on the exact structure of the South African NHI are continuing, five of South Africa's major hospitals will be undergoing large scale renovations in order to conform to the basic standards required by the NHI scheme. These include the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg, George Mukhari Hospital, Limpopo Academic Hospital, King Edward Hospital in Durban and the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in the Eastern Cape.
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