South African parliament speaker urges SADC members to unite in pushing universal healthcare

Southern African Development Community (SADC)
Southern African Development Community (SADC)

South African Parliament Speaker Thandi Modise on Friday urged member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to unite and push through the provision of universal healthcare for people in the region.

Modise stressed the importance of unity among SADC states as “there will be resistance” to the provision of universal healthcare in the region.

SADC members must forge ahead with their universal healthcare programs in spite of the resistance, Modise said.

She made the appeal at 46th Plenary Assembly Session of the the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum in Swakopmund, Namibia, to discuss the expansion of universal health coverage (UHC).

The UHC is aimed at ensuring that all people in the region receive the health services and treatment with sufficient quality.

The UHC comprises two main components: quality, essential health service coverage, and financial coverage, both extended to the whole population.

The health issue, unless it is addressed, will continue to divide our societies as unequal access to healthcare is a source of under-development, Modise stated.

In South Africa, the access to proper health care is still a challenge as most people are still poor and still live in places where even those clinics that have been built are not able to cater for everybody, Modise said.

Therefore, she said, South Africa has now begun the process of pushing the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill.

“We are debating funding modalities but we are very clear that if we have had our first win of bringing down and almost making sure that child mortality rate is down, we will be able to push for universal health coverage in the country,” Modise said.

The process has “been very slowly, sluggishly almost, because of lack of adequate funding,” she said.

South Africa’s Parliament is holding public hearings on the NHI Bill, which envisages a package of comprehensive health services for free at private and public health facilities.

The landmark bill will benefit all South African citizens, permanent residents, refugees, inmates, designated foreign nationals and all children.

Several political parties and numerous bodies, including the South African Private Practitioners’ Forum, voiced skepticism about the bill, calling it unrealistic, too expensive, and would potentially damage the healthcare sector, particularly when the country is facing a financial crisis.

Critics also argue that the financing model of this bill will mean the imposition of a new tax on ordinary South Africans who have already been squeezed dry by the government and cannot be subjected to yet another tax. Enditem

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