SAMA chair Dr Angelique Coetzee

Because
the country’s health workforce is already depleted – and the system is losing
skilled expertise to global locations – critical disciplines must be preserved
in exploring the redesigning of workforce expenditure.

While
welcoming the 2019 Budget Speech delivered by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in
Parliament yesterday (20 February),
SA Medical Association chairperson, Dr Angelique Coetzee, added in the SAMA
response statement that redesigning the workforce expenditure must take into
consideration that the long-standing strategic goal for the health sector is to
actually increase the number of skilled health workers.

“SAMA is ready – and has
already begun – to engage with the government on the intricacies of effectively
remodelling the health workforce,” said Dr Coetzee.

“South Africa,” she
continued, “is on its way to implementing National Health Insurance (NHI). As
the largest professional body for doctors in South Africa, we are inspired that
the 2019 Budget, just as the 2018 Budget, includes a welcome allocation to fund
part of the NHI – R717 billion for health services, including NHI. But
universal health coverage will not be possible without an adequate, skilled,
well-trained and motivated health workforce, including doctors. Our health
infrastructure needs serious overhauling.”

Alluding
to the Presidential Health Summit held in 2018, Dr Coetzee noted that a strong
case for evidence- and needs-based human resource planning and financing, as
well as the equitable distribution of human resources to meet the healthcare
needs of the population, was made.

After the Presidential
Health Summit in October last year, SAMA was also involved in the Health
Professions Summit that followed as part of the health workforce community. On that Summit’s specific short and long term
suggestions to improve human resources for health, Dr Coetzee noted that
Minister Mboweni was correct in declaring that South Africa needs more doctors
and nurses. The Health Professions Summit also underscored the necessity of
community-based and rural-focused improvements in workforce development.

“We are
optimistic that the allocation of R2.8 billion for human resources and R1
billion for medical interns, as well as the elevation of Community Health Care
Workers’ wages to R3500 per month,” she added, “will help meet some of the key
human resource goals which were identified.”

On the issue of sin taxes,
Dr Coetzee said SAMA did not consider the increases in tobacco and alcohol sin
taxes – by above-inflation rates of between 7.4% and 9% – to be adequate and amenable
to public health goals: “These sin taxes are increased annually by about the
same miniscule rate, which renders them less effective for public health
purposes as the increases are coming from a low base.”

SOURCE:
SAMA PR and Communications Department