SAMATU commends adoption of NHI Bill

South Africa – The South African Medical Association Trade Union (SAMATU) says the adoption of the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill represents a monumental achievement in South Africa’s journey towards accomplishing universal health coverage .

“This milestone signifies that the nation realises the importance of universal health coverage as a means of addressing the inequalities that exist in the current healthcare system,” said SAMATU General Secretary, Dr Cedric Sihlangu .

The union commended the Ministry of Health for the significant strides made in the implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill, which was passed by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) in Parliament, in Cape Town, on Wednesday .

The SAMATU noted with great satisfaction the Ministry’s inclusive and comprehensive approach, particularly through robust stakeholder engagements, transparent communication, and a well-considered phased implementation strategy .

Sihlangu said SAMATU views these efforts as “key components for the successful execution of this critical healthcare reform .

“SAMATU recognises and supports the Ministry’s emphasis on a rational, structured, and phased approach to the implementation of the NHI .

The acknowledgement of the role of transitional arrangements and the impeding proclamation of specific sections of the Act as law are crucial elements in realising the transformative impact of the NHI .

“We understand the intricacies involved in implementing such a fundamental reform and appreciate the Ministry’s foresight in ascertaining that the effectiveness of the Act’s provisions is undeniably linked to the subsequent introduction of accompanying regulations, directives, and operational procedures,” Sihlangu said .

Sihlangu’s comments come as Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, has described the adoption of the bill as a historic and important milestone .

According to Phaahla, the Ministry has since developed and adopted a comprehensive approach to stakeholder engagement to ensure diverse perspectives are considered as the country forges ahead with implementing NHI .

“Regarding the next key steps, we look forward to the Bill being forwarded to the President for consideration and promulgation .

Once it receives Presidential assent, the Bill will become an Act of Parliament, creating a statutory mandate for the Minister and the National Department of Health,” Phaahla said on Wednesday .

Sihlangu added that the Constitutional provision empowering the President to set dates for the effectiveness of various provisions within the Act is recognised, and SAMATU is confident in the Ministry’s commitment to navigate through these processes with due diligence and steadfast focus on the public interest .

“SAMATU stands ready to offer unwavering support and collaborate with all stakeholders involved in the NHI implementation processes .

As a union that represents doctors, we are committed to provide valuable insights and engage constructively to ensure the realisation of a healthcare system that guarantees equitable access to quality healthcare for all South Africans .

“As we move forward, SAMATU reaffirms its commitment to advocating for the best interests of healthcare professionals and the public .

We eagerly anticipate the successful realisation of the NHI objectives for the benefit of all citizens,” Sihlangu said .

About the NHI
On 12 June 2023, the National Assembly (NA) passed the National Health Insurance Bill .

The NHI Bill seeks to provide universal access to health care services in the country in accordance with the National Health Insurance White Paper and the Constitution of South Africa .

The Bill envisages the establishment of a National Health Insurance Fund and sets out its powers, functions and governance structures .

The fund will purchase health care services for all users who are registered with it .

The Bill will also create mechanisms for the equitable, effective and efficient utilisation of the resources of the fund to meet the health needs of users and preclude or limit undesirable, unethical and unlawful practices in relation to the fund .

It further seeks to address barriers to access .

The NHI Bill was initially tabled in Parliament and introduced to the Portfolio Committee on Health on 8 August 2019 for processing .

Click here for “All you need to know” on the NHI .

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