/ 4 February 2011

Minister: SA can’t afford commercialised health

Minister: Sa Can't Afford Commercialised Health

Under South Africa’s highly commercialised private health system it was possible for a nurse to charge patients R23 000 for every wound dressing she did, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said in Pretoria on Thursday.

Motsoaledi, speaking at the inauguration of the new Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), said: “We cannot afford this commercial health system.”

Citing a case where a nurse was being investigated for charging patients R23 000 for every wound dressed, Motsoaledi said that such practises of profiting were “bleeding” the country.

“It is disgusting the service costs that are being charged in the private health system. There is no reason people must be charged so exhorbitantly.”

He cited a case where a person was billed R1,2-million by a private hospital in South Africa for a laparotomy — an operation on the abdomen.

‘Just to make money’
While the public health system “was in crisis”, there were problems in the private health system that were very often not highlighted.

In the private sector there were many instances where “tests are just ordered to make money”.

Motsoaledi said it was also worrying that many senior doctors who were supposed to be working full time for the public health system were also working full time in private practice.

The new HPCSA president Sam Mokgokong urged the minister to consider placing teaching hospitals directly under the jurisdiction of the national health department rather than provincial health departments.

He said that to prevent strikes affecting the public health sector, the national health department should be proactive and act to address staff grievances before strikes affected the hospitals. — Sapa