Private healthcare CEO’s “we’re running out of time”, if we want to make a difference

Private healthcare CEO’s “we’re running out of time”, if we want to make a difference

10 October 2017.

A high-level panel of chief executives from the private health care sector responded to the immediate National Health Insurance’s priorities by stating that the time for theoretical discussion is over and that they were ready to engage in implementing projects and programmes that will make a difference in people’s lives.

Speaking at the Hospital Association of South Africa Conference at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, Advisor on National Health Insurance, Vishal Brijlal, outlined the priorities as maternal health, the screening and treatment of pediatric cancer, school health, and care for the elderly and the disabled, and mental health screening. Brijlal pointed out that having a policy was not sufficient – policy needed to be followed by planning, implementation, and cooperation: “We will not just wake up one morning and there will be universal healthcare.”

Koert Pretorius, Chief Executive Officer of Mediclinic Southern Africa said the private sector could offer its spare capacity to the public sector and could offer to treat a percentage of prioritised cases at a lower cost, and it could focus its attention on rural areas, in schools, and support or manage some primary healthcare clinics. Pretorius also introduced research conducted amongst a sample of people earning R6,400.00 to R16,000.00 (approximately representative of a national population of about 7 Million) that shows that this group, who has a high incidence of non-communicable diseases, are willing to pay up to R350.00 per month for primary care. This group could be covered for 45-50 conditions at this payment, which could represent 85% of basic healthcare needs.

Dr Richard Friedland, Netcare Group Chief Executive Officer began his talk by stating that all efforts to build a sustainable society would stumble without a strong and sustainable healthcare system – and that the South African system is “incredibly” unequal, but that the widespread knowledge gained from local private hospitals international operations are invaluable to South African health care reform. As an example, he cited the case study of Netcare’s United Kingdom group reducing cataract treatments from more than a day to mere hours, using mobile clinics and doctors with deep experience in this procedure.

Dr Jonathan Broomberg, Chief Executive of Discovery Health, noted that the basic principal of universal healthcare is access to healthcare of decent quality, and that this right was being denied to many South Africans. “There are literally hundreds of variations of universal healthcare, and each system has to evolve to address current realities in the country the system is being implemented. The danger is we continue to have theoretical debates and do not do what we need. We are out of time and cannot afford to lose this opportunity,” said Broomberg.

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