Cabinet has approved the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill to be tabled in Parliament. This is according to the Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu.

He briefed the media at Parliament Thursday on the cabinet meeting.

Mthembu says the Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize will hold a media briefing soon to share more information.

“The Bill will give effect to the NDP (National Development Plan) that seeks to provide for universal quality healthcare services to all South Africans, irrespective of their socio-economic background. It will be based on values of justice, fairness and social solidarity. It will address the current health system that serves only 16% of South Africans whilst excluding the overwhelming majority.”

Primary health care in rural areas

Primary health care in rural areas is a primary goal for the NHI project. In provinces like the Eastern Cape the need is dire.

The NHI aims to provide world class health care at hospitals, but also clinics. One such clinic is based in Lusikisiki and it already complies with the prescription of the NHI. The clinic in Lusikisiki consisted of a prefabricated construction.

Before people had to wait in long lines for care. It had no waiting areas and when it rained patients had to look for cover under trees. Ventilation was also very poor inside the structure.

But that has all changed. The new NHI spec clinic is world class. It encompasses emergency services, dental care, optometry, a section for chronic patients, a 24 hour maternity ward, a chemist and a rehabilitation centre.

Basic compliance is adhered to with a waiting room and rest rooms for the staff. It will also be staffed with medical professionals.

Eastern Cape MEC Health Sindiswa Gomba says, “The issue of NHI is for everybody. As it starts to speak national health insurance, it doesn’t become a rural area thing. But it also takes into consideration that when you look at the South African fiscal envelope today and the challenges are provided, equitable health is needed; but there would be a bias of course. You’ll find that rural areas are suffering equally as urban areas in the access of our healthcare centres. Be that they are hospitals or clinics; but clinics are the hardest hit as they do close at 4pm while the community still need that service. So in terms of going the NHI route, it is a system that will assist us to open on a 24 hour basis 7 days a week.”

The people making use of the facility are very impressed by the changes.

A patient Nompendulo Hanxa says “These look better… you helped with everything here and I am very happy.”

Another patient Xolani Mhlekwa adds, “We are getting a great service and we receive medicine on time. We have no complaints yet.”

The Health department has also put a committee together to ensure the new facilities are maintained consistently.