South Africa: Department of Health Budget Is Adopted By the NA

The Department of Health’s much-anticipated budget vote came under the spotlight at the National Assembly’s mini-plenary recently. In his speech, the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, reported on some of the key priorities of the department’s annual performance plans in the last financial year and the immediate challenges posed by Covid-19 on the department’s budget.

High on the department’s agenda is the establishment of the National Health Insurance Fund, which will enhance human resource capacity in the health-care sector. Reporting on the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill, the Minister stated that public hearings were held to obtain the public’s views on the bill. R7.6 billion has been set aside to establish the NHI Unit to contract service providers and to oversee the NHI fund.

Tied to the NHI is the concept of Ideal Clinics and over 1 200 clinics across the country have obtained this status. In addition, R13.7 billion has been assigned to tertiary health services.

In his input, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, commended the department’s successes and supported the bill. However, he was unhappy with the department’s projected R50 billion budget cut. “We have resolved that we will meet the National Treasury and ask it to explain to us how the department will achieve its annual performance plans in the light of these projected budget cuts.”

The national outcry over the unlawful procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) did not escape his attention. “As a committee, we would like to get a report on why there is so much outcry over the procurement of PPE. We want to know what happened.”

He also praised nursing staff for their hard work during the pandemic and recognised the impact these trying times have had on them. “Our nurses are wounded tigers. Please walk tall with your scars. Thanks for holding on to the fort.”

He further stated that as part of its oversight mandate, the committee will visit the provinces to determine the readiness of provinces in rolling out the vaccine. The success of government intervention is curbing the spread of Covid will be determined “by how many people we can save. And we can save people by vaccinating as many as possible,” Member of Parliament Ms Siviwe Gwarube. “At the current pace of less than 1% vaccination rate, the 40 million annual target remains a far-fetched dream.” Worst of all, “we have been surpassed by less resourced countries, such as Zimbabwe and Ghana.”