Home South African Private hospitals await clarity on government’s vaccine roll-out plans

Private hospitals await clarity on government’s vaccine roll-out plans

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The national Department of Health has remained adamant that it will be the sole purchaser of vaccines

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THE PRIVATE hospital sector is awaiting more clarity on whether it can start the process of independently procuring vaccines for private hospital patients.

However, to date the national Department of Health has remained adamant that it will be the sole purchaser of vaccines.

Melomed Hospital spokesperson Shameema Adams said: “The hospital group would not be able to procure vaccines as this is done by the national Department of Health (NDOH). What we do look forward to is to work with the NDOH to ensure the vaccines are issued to health care workers.”

At a press briefing earlier this month, the department said the procurement process would be centralised and a system would be used in which medical aid scheme members and the private health sector would subsidise the state, which would possibly see scheme members subsidising the wider public on a one-to-one basis.

Department of Health spokesperson Popo Maja said: “Private health care benefits not more than 20% of South African citizens. Companies that produce these vaccines prefer to do business with governments. Vaccination is effective when it covers more than 80% of the population.”

Mediclinic Southern Africa chief clinical officer Dr Gerrit de Villiers said the group supported the government’s vaccine roll-out strategy.

“The company is part of the private sector initiative to assist the government where required. While planning and talks are receiving critical attention, our priority will be to ensure the timeous roll-out to our front-line health care workers and affiliated health care professionals when SAHPRA (SA Health Products Regulatory Authority) approval for a vaccine(s) is granted,” said De Villiers.

Netcare said it could not comment on the matter and referred queries to Business for SA (B4SA), an organisation that has several work streams on the topic and is currently the point of contact on private engagement with the government on vaccines.

The chairperson of B4SA’s Health Working Stream, Stavros Nicolaou, said: “B4SA is of the view that in order to optimise the vaccination programme and ensure that there is an even and equitable administration of immunisation in accordance with the appropriate risk algorithms, which includes vaccinating health care workers first, that government should co-ordinate the purchasing and acquisition strategy for the country.

“B4SA will not directly purchase vaccine from suppliers; instead government and accredited private sector providers will liaise directly with suppliers. The National Vaccine Co-ordinating Committee, in which B4SA has representation, will co-ordinate and oversee the roll-out of the vaccine to both the private and public sector, and it’s envisaged that the private health sector will administer the vaccine for the private sector and offer its services for the public sector patients under contractual arrangement with the provincial health departments.”

Medical aids are gearing up for the vaccines.

In a statement, Bonitas said: “At this stage, medical schemes are not able to procure the vaccines for themselves directly, but we are keeping abreast of the government’s progress of vaccine procurement and are planning to distribute it to our valued members as quickly as possible.”

Discovery Health Medical Scheme said it had already ring-fenced funding for all members of the scheme to receive the Covid-19 vaccine when it became available in South Africa.

“The cost of procuring vaccines for 7.1 million medical scheme members in South Africa together with the medical scheme cross-subsidy for procuring vaccines for a further 7.1 million people who are not members of medical schemes, is estimated to be R7 billion. This is less than 2% of annual premium contributions and therefore affordable for medical schemes,” it said.