Civil society organisations, SECTION27 and the Institute of Economic Justice have urged Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to urgently increase funding for public health.

In an open letter to the two ministers, the organisations say the objective of a long and healthy life for all South Africans cannot be achieved with the current inadequate and inefficient health resourcing, both financial and human. They say the implementation of austerity budgets by the previous democratic government severely undermined the public health system and the viability of NHI.

 “Spend per uninsured person increased only 1% (in real terms) on average annually between 2015-2016 and 2019-2020, despite a rising burden of disease and high medical price inflation. This is not enough to address the historical and current inequalities that persist in healthcare,” they wrote.

The organisations point out that the NHI White Paper, recognised that healthcare spending had to double if quality healthcare is to be provided for all. However, the February 2019 budget allocated R700 million less to health than was proposed in the medium-term budget in October last year.

“Taking stagnant economic growth into consideration, the Davis Tax Committee’s projected R72 billion shortfall in NHI funding by 2025 is likely to significantly understated,” they observed.

Referring to human resources, the societies noted that shortages of specialists and other staff in the public health sector have been exacerbated due to budget cuts.

They urge the ministers to implement a health financing strategy that will more appropriately define how much money will be raised, allocated and spent on improving healthcare outcomes and achieving universal healthcare.

“We are committed to NHI, but we urge you to take specific concerns with the current NHI Bill seriously. Matters such as the role of the provincial health departments and protecting NHI funds from corruption are just two examples of critical questions that require clarification,” they wrote.

They also urge the Ministers to support the finalisation of the Health Market Inquiry into the private sector and implementing its recommendations, adding that NHI will not be achieved without significant reform of the private sector.