The National Health act signed by Mbeki on Friday laid the first frame work for single national health systems in south Africa.
The act governs both the private and public sectors and lays down the responsibility of districts provincial and national heath authorities
It aims to promote equitable health service for rich and poor people Public health experts have welcomed the act, which will be applied after Health Minister Manto Tshabalala- Msimang has written regulations. However the private health care would become more and more expensive and the act would deter private hospital investors
Its a very good piece of legislation in that it sets the framework for national health systems, said Kurt Worrall -Clare, the legal adviser to HASA.
But private hospitals will only get licenses for a maximum of 20 years and we have no guarantee of getting a licence that last for any period. Private hospitals are massive investments and it takes time to recoup that money. In the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and Australia licences are given for vastly extended periods.
Currently private hospitals must get licences from the director general of the province. These licencses last for an unlimited period.
The new licences will be issued by the national director general of health who will have to consider factors including the equitable distribution of health services. Public health specialist Peter Barron of the Health Systems Trust said the act would provide overall guidance to the fragmented health systems.
He said the private health sector in South Africa was probably the freest in the world. People are seeing the act as a punitive thing. I see it as an attempt to spread scarce resources. If doctors do emigrate as a result its not going to make a difference to the people who need them most anyway, Barron said.
The SA Medical Association has vehemently opposed the need for private doctors to get certificates of need to run practices Kgosi Letlape, chief of the association, said yesterday that he hoped that the health minister would promulgate regulations soon so that doctors would have enough time to comment
These matters are orucial for our survival as doctors. If we dont have enough time we could end up in court again he said, referring to the case brought by dispensing doctors. If doctors needs were ignored they might have to relocate, to find another nation that will appreciate their services
The National Health Act also states that The health minister must prescribed ways of coordinating the relationship between the public and private sectors
The minister must, within the limited resources available endeavour to protect, promote, improve and maintain the heath of the population.
No hospital or doctor can refuse a patient emergency treatment. Health Department legal advisor Debbie Pearmain could not be reached for comment yesterday. (Source: Cape Times, 17 August 2004)