Public health in South Africa has reached its dying day

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Public health in South Africa has reached its dying day. Photo: Pixabay
Public health in South Africa has reached its dying day. Photo: Pixabay

The public health care sector in South Africa has reached its dying day and Covid-19 is not the only cause of death. Pictures of “shocking scenes” in provincial hospitals in the Eastern Cape, that circulated in the media on 29 June 2020, are nothing new when it comes to the South African public health care sector. Scenes depicting patients lying on hospital floors were already a common occurrence even before Covid-19. Even in a province like the Western Cape, such scenes were common at the beginning of the year.

Various other provinces are also burdened with corruption and maladministration. And that is why the FF Plus is fighting against a system like the National Health Insurance (NHI); to prevent the private health care sector from also being consumed by the government’s inability to offer proper health care services to the people.

Just a few weeks ago, the President boasted in his weekly newsletter that Covid-19 will serve as a kind of “Genesis” for the NHI and that the NHI will soon be implemented. The President’s dreams have, however, been shattered because Covid-19 has choked the last little bit of breath out of the dying public health care sector. And the government alone is to blame.

Right from the start of the lockdown it was evident that the public health care sector was not ready for the wave of Covid-19 patients and the government then failed to use the opportunity it had during the first few weeks of the lockdown to ensure that the system is upgraded, brought up to standard and ready.

The government did not prepare adequately and now there are shocking scenes of health care workers who are striking due to a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and beds in intensive care units – the private health care sector was forced to intervene and make more beds available to field hospitals. The government also had to enter into contracts with the private health care sector to admit patients to private hospitals.

In addition, numerous ludicrous regulations, like the ban on tobacco sales, which has no scientific basis showing that it contributes to Covid-19 deaths, and other restrictions are still in place even though they have already served their purpose.

It is ironic that the government is doing everything in its power to get rid of the private health care sector in South Africa to replace it with the NHI, but as soon as there is a crisis, like Covid-19, the private sector is good enough again and has to jump in and save the government. The government needs to realise that it is solely responsible for the terrible condition of the country’s public health care sector, nothing and no one else is to blame, not even Covid-19.

Placing only the Department of Health in the Eastern Cape under administration will not solve the problem seeing as the entire national public health care system is one big mess due to corruption, maladministration and poor service delivery.

What South Africa needs now is a health care system that accommodates both the public and private health care sectors and that is designed by specialised medical experts and not by ANC politicians who destroy everything that they put their hands on.

Read the original article in Afrikaans by Philip van Staden on FF Plus

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