Now That SONA and the Budget Speech Have Come and Gone…

Now That SONA and the Budget Speech Have Come and Gone…

Now that the President’s State of the Nation Address, the following debate, and the Budget Speech has come and gone, what has the media made of pronouncements about the healthcare sector? Here’s a short wrap:

  1. The DA says that the success of the National Health Insurance is so implausible that the President didn’t even mention it in the State of the Nation Address;
  2. According to the Presidency, the Government is committed to its success and rollout.

In a Daily Maverick article, commentators and activists argue that the NHI has some way to go and many hurdles to jump before medicine access is realised. 

And as if all that wasn’t looking difficult enough, Business Day this morning reports that the budget for health announced yesterday has fallen in real terms.

The Minister of Health’s response to the budget, according to News24, reads:

“We are grateful for the steps the minister (of finance) has taken with his team to allocate over the next three years an amount of R23bn, which will be in addition to the current baseline allocation. As the finance minister has said, it’s specifically meant to address several shortcomings. A recognition of the fact that the health portfolio nationally has been underfunded over many years.

He said in terms of goods and services, including buying equipment and maintaining the infrastructure, the funds got lower and lower and the department was hoping to progressively start improving on that.

“We have many years of budget cuts. Even this allocation is basically in the midst of quite several budget reductions. We hope that this will go a long way to address several key areas, as the minister mentioned in the speech, including the human resources for health.

“I am very grateful for this confirmation because of the many years of underfunding that all provinces had struggled with the maintenance of equipment. Even though there was no improvement in the funding, existing staff still had to be paid. So, there was no additional allocation for in terms of salary increase or pay progression annually and provinces and institutions had to take from the very money which was supposed to be used for equipment and maintenance to pay salaries,” he said.

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