NHI proposals to be unveiled soon
Cape Town - Details of the long-awaited national health insurance (NHI) scheme, which the government has been working on for the past year, will soon be released for public inspection, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Tuesday.
Briefing journalists at parliament in Cape Town, he said the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) that has been working on the policy document for the past year had completed its work, and the document was now being prepared for presentation to cabinet.
“Last week , the IMC sat... and were satisfied with the document and passed it. We are in the process of preparing for the next... cabinet meeting. If it's approved there, it will go for public participation, a process that... will take three months.
“From public participation it goes (back) to cabinet, and then to parliament to be passed as an act,” he said.
The committee's work on the NHI over the past 12 months had focused on primary healthcare, costs and the economic benefits of the scheme.
Motsoaledi said a parallel process had been taking place within his department to prepare for the scheme, and details of this will be unveiled "in due course".
His announcement that the white paper will be released "in a very short space of time" follows a similar one by President Jacob Zuma, in last week's state of the nation address.
Turning to maternal and infant mortality rates, Motsoaledi said South Africa was not doing well and the rates were "unacceptably high".
However, while the government accepted recent figures on infant mortality, it was questioning the "extraordinarily high" figure for maternal deaths.
"We don't believe it's as high as the figure that has been given to us of about 600 deaths per 100 000," he said.
A data advisory committee, including top researchers, demographers and experts, had been established and was working with the government to review the figures.
On combating HIV/Aids, Motsoaledi said that over and above the HIV counselling and testing campaign, launched in 2010, there were eight other "prevention interventions" being implemented by the government.
These included a male medical circumcision campaign, which since its launch in April last year had carried out 17 000 circumcisions.
An "aggressive" condom distribution campaign had seen over 403 million male and more than 4.3 million female condoms distributed by the health department up to the end of last year.
Motsoaledi also gave an assurance on safe blood transfusions in South Africa, saying the chance of anyone getting HIV from the country’s transfusion service "will be one in a million".
On the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, he said it was imperative that all pregnant women in the country went to clinics to determine their HIV status.
He said the weakness of the programme for the treatment of HIV-positive pregnant women is it has to start at 14 weeks.
Currently, 70 000 HIV-positive children are born each year.
While the department wanted to reduce this figure to zero, many HIV-positive pregnant women are only presenting themselves at clinics just before they are set to deliver their babies.
"Because if a woman is at term and you start mother-to-child transmission (treatment), the chances of stopping the HIV from going to the child are very slim," he said.
On antiretroviral treatment, Motsoaledi said access to this had increased, "with a total of 1.3 million people being on treatment by the end of December (last year)".
He further called for the fight against tuberculosis to be intensified.
More than having the highest TB infection per unit population rate in the world, South Africa also had the highest TB-HIV co-infection rate.
The government is set to unveil new strategies to combat TB in March.