Inefficiencies in clinics and hospitals were sharply raised by residents in all the public hearings, including in Springbok
THE LACK of basic health care, especially in far-flung areas of the Northern Cape, came under the spotlight when the portfolio committee on health concluded its public hearings on the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill in Springbok on Monday.
The committee conducted public hearings on the bill in four local municipalities in the Province, including Sol Plaatje, Emthanjeni, Dawid Kruiper and Nama Khoi.
Inefficiencies in clinics and hospitals, as well as the total non-existence of health care services in certain communities in the Northern Cape, were sharply raised by residents in all the public hearings, including in Springbok.
The people of the Namaqualand district told the committee that the non-existence of health care services in their communities had led them to conclude that they were “the forgotten people” in South Africa.
They told the committee that there were no clinics and hospitals in their communities hence they concluded that they did not belong to the Republic.
A resident from the Steinkopf community told the committee that there was no clinic and no hospital in Steinkopf, and the majority of the people living there are unemployed and there are elderly people. To reach the nearest hospital, which they said was very far, they had to pay a minimum of R200 per person, no matter how seriously ill the person was.
They asked the committee to ensure that there was a mobile clinic in their community at least to take care of the old people.
The committee also received inputs from the public calling for support for people living with disabilities. The committee heard from the people with visual and hearing impairments that they did not receive assistance at the clinics.
The committee heard that those with hearing impairments struggled to access services because there are no sign language translators available at state service delivery institutions and that both the government and Disabled People South Africa (DPSA) should do more to assist them.
The committee also heard oral submissions from the two medical professionals who left state hospitals and joined the private sector.
Although they support the bill, they highlighted the shortcomings in the current health care system, which they said had to be addressed urgently.
They proposed that the government focus its attention on fixing the existing health care infrastructure, including health facilities, and ensure that there was a culture of the delivery of health services to the people, especially in the historically impoverished and disadvantaged communities.
The chairperson of the committee, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, said: “It appears that as you move from the capital of the Province (Kimberley) deeper into the Province, the more difficult it becomes to access basic health services and that should not be the case.”
He called upon the MEC for Health and the Department of Health in the Province to address the challenges that were highlighted by the people during the public hearings as a matter of urgency.
The objective of the bill is to achieve universal access to quality health care services in South Africa in accordance with section 27 of the Constitution; to establish a National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and to set out its powers, functions and governance structures; and to provide a framework for the strategic purchasing of health care services by the fund on behalf of users.
The committee will conduct public hearings on the bill in the next few weeks in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape provinces.