Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi yesterday predicted the death of private medical schemes in the next decade owing to soaring costs for treatment.
Addressing the SA National Editors' Forum in Cape Town, Motsoaledi said private schemes were rapidly shifting out of the reach of the country's middle class and described the cost of private healthcare as "criminal in the extreme".
"Our research has shown that private hospitals will charge up to R15000 to perform a circumcision, while township GPs can perform the same procedure for a few hundred rand," he said.
In another example, a man was quoted R160000 at a private hospital for a spinal decompression. He subsequently received the procedure for R30000 at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria.
"The situation is that the poor have given up on healthcare, the middle classes are suffering the most financially and the rich don't care because they have money.
"The NHI (National Health Insurance) is not about money; it is about health. Africa and the US are the only places in the world where healthcare is being massively privatised. But, for the NHI to work, our public healthcare system needs to be drastically overhauled and prices need to be regulated."
He acknowledged that there were serious shortcomings in state-run facilities. "We have mismanaged our resources and that is why our healthcare system is in a state of crisis."
He blamed the acute shortage of nurses on government ignoring nursing colleges for decades. He said R1.2-billion would be spent on revitalising them.