Doctors will emigrate

Tamlyn Stewart, TheTimes

The proposed amendment to the health act is intended to: 

  • Make provision for the appointment of a facilitator for health pricing
  • Improve transparency in the determination of costs and prices 
  • Ensure accountability for the costs of healthcare
  • Ensure that healthcare providers prevent unjustified cost increases 
  • Prevent unfair, collusive and undesirable business practices and 
  • Ensure affordable healthcare.

But doctors in the private sector said they were afraid that the amendment would empower the health minister to slash to sub- economic levels the fees they may charge. Prof Chris Joseph, president of the Ear, Nose and Throat Society, said doctors with established practices would not put up with that and would close their practices. Only 8percent of respondents to the survey said they would continue in private practice. Less than 1percent only 22 doctors said they would consider joining the public sector full-time.

Private healthcare practitioners said that though they endorsed the objectives of the bill, the catch was that the minister would appoint the facilitator for health pricing and would have sweeping rule- making and veto rights. They said no minister in a democracy should have such power. Joseph said: The act wants to regulate what hospitals and doctors charge. The department wants to set up a negotiating forum that will consist of government-elected representatives. The private sector believes that this will be a mechanism whereby the department will determine the fee structure. 

Health department spokesperson Sibani Mngadi said the amendment would ensure more transparency in the determination of healthcare costs, and there would be a need to justify exorbitant price increases. Joseph said if the amendment were passed it would be a disaster. If they fix the rate there will be one rate for everybody, whether a junior or a senior specialist. The super-specialist categories are going to leave the country.