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Zuma: State will provide free medical care for all

Sapa, M&G Online reporter

President Jacob Zuma has reiterated government's commitment to get the National Health Service into operation - despite drawing criticism in the past.

Despite criticism, government is forging ahead with the National Health Service (NHS), a preventive health scheme. (Kenny Leung, M&G)

The state will provide free medical care and hospitalisation for all, President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.

“We are currently working hard to bring into operation the National Health Service (NHS), a preventive health scheme that will ensure that quality health care is available to all regardless of economic or financial means,” he said in a speech prepared for delivery at the opening of the Dr Harry Surtie hospital in Upington, Northern Cape.

“Our government is working, and will continue to deliver services to especially the vulnerable in our society.” 

Zuma said in the past five years 300 new health facilities had been built, including 160 new clinics. He also said that the country’s HIV/Aids turnaround strategy was a success – and that one of his administration’s targets was to ensure that at least 4.6 million people were enrolled in the antiretroviral programme.

According to the president, the opening of the hospital was a chance to create direct and indirect jobs. “Many people in and around the area of Upington continue to benefit and economic growth and development shows positive trends.

“However, we must intensify our efforts at improving on training clinical staff.”

A site had been identified for the College of Emergency Care, and was expected to be up and running later this year. A transfer of hospital services from the old Gordonia Hospital created an opportune moment for training through expanding nursing college facilities. There would also be a satellite college in Upington linked to the Henrietta Stockdale Nursing College in Kimberley.

“There will be improved access to training for our nurses and ensuring that training takes place within the province,” said Zuma.

“This double-edged approach will reduce the burden of costs of training, and will also help train more people locally as opposed to faraway places.”

Sharp criticism of the NHI
The National Health Insurance (NHI) proposals have been sharply criticised, particularly by the private sector. In February, the chief executive of the South African Private Practitioners’ Forum, Chris Archer, blamed Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi for “painting a picture and creating an aura of hope that simply cannot be”, in light of resource constraints. 

Neal Goldwyer, a research consultant at Health Man, a privately owned healthcare consultancy, also pointed out at the time that then Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said that major policy initiatives such as NHI schemes would be affordable only if growth reaches five percent a year – and government revenue doubled.

Meanwhile, the ANC’s provincial secretary for the Northern Cape, Zamani Saul, welcomed the opening of the hospital. “This is a major milestone in improving access to health care for both the people of ZF Mgcawu and Namakwa districts,” he said, in a statement. &ndash Sapa

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