Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has cautioned African countries from emulating South Africa in trying to achieve universal health coverage. He says they must come up with their own strategies in ensuring that their citizens have access to quality healthcare regardless of their social status.

Motsoaledi was speaking at the Africa Health Business Symposium attended by delegates from 32 African countries and 16 countries outside the continent.

Delegates are discussing ways of bringing universal health coverage on the continent, an equivalent to the National Health Insurance locally.

Motsoaledi told delegates that 8 % of the South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product is spent on healthcare, with private health care sector spending 4 % on 15 % of the population and the other 4 % on 85 % of the population in public health sector.

He has acknowledged though that this is not sustainable.

“I was not more determined some three years ago than I am today, that this situation must change. The SA government was subsidising private healthcare for R46.8 billion in 2015. Within a period of 3 years that subsidy increased to R57 billion, but in the same period, the public healthcare system lost R9 billion because of the economic problems. What am I trying to tell you? When the economy gets bad those who are well to do are cushioned further and further and those who are poor are left behind.”

Motsoaledi has warned African countries against taking lessons from South Africa on this matter.

“Many colleagues, especially on the continent of Africa, believe the healthcare situation in SA is something to emulate. Don’t try something like this; it’s not working for us. It’s working for a very few people… don’t.”

The African Union Commission has encouraged South Africa and other countries to forge ahead with their plans to roll out whatever plans that will lead to universal health coverage.

“To achieve universal health coverage, we need synergies; we need to ensure that we do not establish two parallel health systems that will promote inefficiency, confusion and poor use of resources. It is the public sector responsibility to lead the way and provide an environment that promotes discussion between the two sectors,” says the Commissions’s Amira Elfadil.

The financing of the health systems is a challenge across the continent and partnerships with the private health care sector seems to be one of the options.

“Honourable minister, every organisation and delegate present here believes in health for all. We know the challenges are resources. It is not the what, but it is really the how and we are extending an arm of partnership on enabling us to achieve health for all even quicker,” says Africa Healthcare Federation’s Amit Thakker.

Motsoaledi has challenged heads of states to support their own health systems and stop seeking medical care abroad when they fall ill.