Home Opinion and Features Is the Bill about the ‘frothy’ or the ‘fluffy’?

Is the Bill about the ‘frothy’ or the ‘fluffy’?


GREY MUTTER: With the NHI Bill being passed just two weeks before voters in SA head to the polls, I just have a nagging knot in the pit of my stomach, writes Lance Fredericks.

Picture: StockSnap from Pixabay

IT WAS the froth that proved to us that we were loved as children. Yes indeed, when the tea was served with froth, we knew people cared.

I remember my granny, standing at the kitchen door pouring the tea from one cup to another to cool it. When she served the beverage it was just the right temperature … and lekker frothy!

OK, for the record, I no longer drink tea, I cannot afford condensed milk and I don’t enjoy sugar any more, but the memories of that sweet, frothy, creamy tea still occupies a happy corner of my heart.

And for those wondering, NO, I never cut out sugar because of any health concerns. One day, scrolling through Social Media, I stumbled across a “No Sugar Challenge” where you were supposed to cut out sugar for an entire seven days. The challenge was promising benefits like a clearer mind, a stronger immune system and more, not less, energy.

I took it on and, after completing the week, I wondered if I could manage 10 days. That was no problem, then I shot for 14 days to double the challenge. When I achieved that mark, I wondered if I could make 20 days … which I did without much fuss.

Then, on day 21, I decided I was being silly, ended the sugar fast, and scooped some sugar over my breakfast cereal. It turned out to be inedible; suddenly I discovered that I couldn’t stand the taste of sugar. These days almost everything I eat is just too sweet for me. It feels weird.

Now though a review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has claimed that refined sugar has a similar effect on the brain as illegal drugs such as cocaine, my health concerns go a bit deeper than a silly sugar addiction.

And my concerns are not that I have witnessed, and have personally endured, some alarming run-ins with the health sector.

One of the earliest traumas I can remember is when, at around 10 years old, a dentist didn’t believe that the Novocaine or Lidocaine he had administered had not taken effect, and proceeded to yank my tooth out despite my screams, protests and bloodshot eyes.

I have had trust issues with tooth-terrorists ever since.

But it’s not only dentists. Around five years ago, I had to have a gastroscopy, which involved a doctor using a thin flexible tube to examine the inside of my upper digestive tract. The tube was inserted into my mouth and travelled down my oesophagus, then into my stomach and on to my duodenum.

Here’s the thing, I was fully awake as the specialist wielding the endoscope reassured gagging, choking and panicking me that what I was enduring wasn’t all that bad, while his assistant leaned on my head so that I could not escape the torture chamber.

When I visited another doctor just over a year later and told him that I was not looking forward to the gastroscopy he was planning, he was stunned to learn that I had not been put under sedation for the procedure.

I also heard of another story, though I have not confirmed whether it’s true, of a doctor that accidentally prescribed his patient a laxative instead of cough syrup.

Three days later the patient came for a check-up and the doctor asked, “Well? Are you still coughing?”

The patient replied, “No, I’m afraid to.”

Have some doctors lost their compassion? Has medicine just become another money making business?

But wait, I cannot be nasty to the medical profession this week. I have to take it easy on them because they may have a few problems of their own to deal with, as the situation in the field of health care has suddenly turned decidedly murky.

Look, I cannot claim to be an authority on the controversy surrounding the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill that was hurriedly signed into law this week, but I am an authority on the creepy sensation that ran up and down my spine as a result of it being passed in such a rush.

The government is saying that it has the responsibility to implement universal health coverage to ensure that all people are able to access health care when and where they need it without suffering financial hardship.

But have we prepared our people for this Bill? Has there been enough consultation? Have all angles been considered? Since when are rash decisions just dumped on a nation, like – for example – a 30% pass rate for our schools?

While well-intentioned, the NHI Bill has faced criticism for its lack of clarity and potential negative impact on private health care. Critics argue that the bill needs clearer provisions and more thorough planning to be effective and avoid legal challenges.

I sense a lot of legal issues coming up for the foreseeable future, don’t you?

The other thing is that, almost like a spoiled child, South Africans can be pretty demanding. If we don’t get our way, we have the tendency to burn things, strew garbage and waste, cast rocks and attack innocent civilians that have nothing to do with the issues that led to the protests.

This happens all the time.

My concern, and I hope it is unfounded, is what if a person or group feels they are entitled to health care from an institution but don’t get their way and are turned away?

Should I be concerned? And if that fear seems a bit irrational, consider the timing of the passing of the bill.

Recently at a rally in KwaZulu-Natal, SA President, Cyril Ramaphosa, vowed to dismantle what he called “health-care apartheid” when plugging the National Health Insurance Bill.

Using the emotionally charged term “Apartheid” just weeks before an election to refer to an established health system sounds like fluffy sensationalism.

Granted, the ANC is facing its toughest election yet, with opinion polls showing the party could lose its majority for the first time since 1994. All this due to stagnant economic growth, rampant unemployment and growing poverty. Could it be that they needed a golden ticket for the 2024 election, and the NHI Bill was the best bet at the bottom of the barrel?

I am just asking.

Call me overly suspicious, call me cynical, or even call me obtuse, but with the NHI Bill being passed just two weeks before voters in SA head to the polls, I just have a nagging knot in the pit of my stomach that this Bill is not an act of love like frothy tea, but rather a load of fluff that is calling out “vote for me”!

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