South Africa will implement the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHI), with or without the funds, in order to provide universal health care for all.

That’s the declaration from Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.

The Minister was presenting his R51 billion budget in Parliament.

Mkhize’s acknowledged funding challenges but insists there will find a funding model with Treasury.

“There have been concerns about the readiness of our system to implement NHI. I believe that too much of discussions have happened, analysis, diagnosis have been done. I think it’s time for us to just jump into implementation.”

Cabinet approved the NHI Bill this week for tabling in Parliament.

Mkhize says the department is establishing an NHI unit while the legislative process is underway.

There’s a ten point plan to improve health care services, this includes dealing with staff and medicine shortages, fixing inadequate equipment and ageing infrastructure.

“It will be impossible to convince the public about the virtues of NHI if it is built over a dilapidated and decaying infrastructure. Currently an amount of R19 billion has been set aside for the period to refurbish and maintain hospitals.”

Meanwhile, the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) says mistakes will be made and corrected along the road.

“Once cannot expect to be perfect on roll out on such a programme. What’s important all the time is to learn from our mistakes and successes and implement that word and be pragmatic as we roll out the process,” says MRC CEO, Prof. Glenda Gray.

The Health Professionals Council of South Africa says its also gearing itself for the NHI.

The Health Minister says 42 million citizens have been registered for the scheme. The remainder of the population will be registered by the end of this year.

But what about those with private medical schemes?

That would be seen as a supplementary or top up service which basically covers things that are not covered by the NHI.

Meanwhile, The Health Committee Chairperson in Parliament, Sibongiseni Dlomo says there is no country in the world that had to first fix its primary and secondary health care facilities before implementing universal health coverage.

Dlomo was participating in the Health Budget Vote Debate in Parliament. He says South Africa will be able to fix the sector and implement the National Health Insurance scheme simultaneously.

Dlomo explains, “This is quite an immoral and uncaring attitude of some of the citizen’s in the world. And probably some of them are in South Africa and probably some of them are in the House. They continue to say, just fix the clinics and hospitals and everything will be OK. Our research shows that there is no country in the world that waited for all things to be fixed before implementing universal health coverage. We say we will fly NHI as we fix our health system. ”

– Additional reporting by Mercedes Besent

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