The past 14 years has seen a widening gap between the private and the public health care sectors with the latter struggling to provide quality service, thus making it difficult for the majority of South Africans who don’t belong to medical aid schemes to access quality health care.
Advocate Khaya Zweni, a lawyer with the Human Rights Commission (HRC), says the majority is not happy with the service that is offered by public health care institutions. Following numerous complaints from the public, the Human Rights Commision conducted a survey in more than 90 public health institutions countrywide.
‘In the visits that we have conducted and (in) the interviews, you could feel that there is a deep sense of hurt and anger in the people. In particular, the elderly patients have complained of lack of respect and rudeness from some of the nursing staff and that if they lodge a complaint, that will further extend their stay in hospital or they will be immediately discharged,’ said Zweni.
When the current African National Congress government took over from the then apartheid government in 1994 it promised access to good quality health care to all. But Mark Heywood, head of the AIDS Law Project, says that promise has not been fulfilled.
‘The vision that we had in 1994 of a better life for all is not the vision that is being realised. If anything, we are going backwards away from that better health for all,’ said Heywood.
Dr Kgosi Letlape, president of the South African Medical Association (SAMA), says poor management is the source of the problems that are facing the public health sector. He charges that some of the managers are not qualified to their jobs.
‘The people that are there are deployed. They are not managers. All the managers are sitting in the private sector. And those that are sitting there (in the public health sector) trying to make things work are facing an uphill battle trying to manage deployees that can’t deliver. We need to go back there and solve these issues,’ said Letlape.
Dr Anban Pillay, the Department of Health’s cluster manager for health economics, believes that the problems in health delivery could be dealt with if the department is allocated a bigger budget by Treasury.
‘The problem with the public sector relates to a lack of funding. That lack of funding needs to be corrected. We are currently at the 11% of government expenditure on health care. We need to get around 15%. That’s what the government needs to do,’ Pillay said.