The implementation of the national health insurance (NHI) pilot project in 10 districts across the country has got under way with no reported problems.
This begins a long process for a new system intended to benefit thousands of patients with no access to proper healthcare.
Department of Health spokesperson Fidel Hadebe yesterday said the rolling out of NHI constituted the building blocks of a programme that would improve the healthcare system.
Hadebe said several teams had been dispatched to the districts to help with the implementation of the programme.
Although the pilot project began yesterday, this was a process that would take some time before it was fully realised, said Hadebe.
The 10 districts identified for the pilot project include Vhembe (Limpopo), OR Tambo (Eastern Cape), Gert Sibande (Mpumalanga), Pixley ka Seme (Northern Cape), Dr Kenneth Kaunda (North West), Thabo Mofutsanyane (Free State), Tshwane (Gauteng) and Amajuba, uMzinyathi and uMgugundlovu, in KwaZulu-Natal.
Hadebe said while there were expectations for instant results, the implementation of NHI was a process.
They were planting “seeds”, he said, and the “results would show”. He said seven teams had been sent to the sites to oversee the programme’s implementation.
“There are various teams visiting the districts to assist management to do things better,” said Hadebe. The teams would help in managing long queues in hospitals. While this may sound simple, it was a very important piece of work, he said.
He said there were non-negotiables that they were also dealing with, which included the availability of drugs – a problem, he said, that “needed to be dealt with”.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has started a process of consulting with general practitioners in terms of entering into contracts with them.
The idea was that the government wanted those doctors to make themselves available at the hospitals for a certain period of time a week, said Hadebe. He did not say how soon Motsoaledi was likely to enter into agreement with the GPs.
Hadebe said public hospitals must become centres where patients were able to receive the medical care they required.
The teams visiting the districts would ensure that problems like long queues and availability of drugs are dealt with.