To succeed in boosting service delivery, the new Health Minister identified four key areas he will be giving his immediate attention in the next few weeks.
‘Within the next two weeks we shall officially launch the prevention of mother-to-child (HIV) transmission – PMTCT – acceleration plan. This will help us to achieve the health Millenium Development Goals, which include maternal mortality, infant mortality and the issue of HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB, amongst others.
Number 2, within the next two weeks we’d like to put up a team that will deal with norms and standards between national, provincial and district health systems. This is to curb the tendency of (a) federal approach towards the health system, which has slowly but surely crept into the system.
Number 3, I will need to call a meeting of provincial health MECs which will come up with cost-containment measures or austerity measures to curb the problems of over-spending. We will, however, endeavor to do this without compromising the quality of care and services due to the public.
Number 4, I wish to consult urgently with my counterparts within the Inter-Ministerial Committee to speedily resolve the issues around the occupational-specific dispensation. To this end, I want to make it clear that the issue of whether doctors and other health professionals are under-paid, is not up for debate. Their remuneration does not satisfy us as well’, said Motsoaledi about his plans.
But Motsoaledi was thin on detail about how he plans to address the issues, for instance on what the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission acceleration plan will entail.
However, he pointed out its importance, saying he is ‘guided by the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals on health’, which South Africa is a signatory to, ‘and the ANC’s manifesto, which made health a top priority after last year’s annual conference in Polokwane’.
‘Part of our fear’¦ why we went to a conference and said: ‘We want to prioritise health’ is out of realisation or recognition of things like this’¦ the Millennium Development Goals’¦ the three specifically dealing with health – on infant mortality, maternal mortality and the issue of HIV/AIDS ‘ yes, we have got fear that if we don’t do something drastic we won’t meet them. The launching of PMTCT, we believe in a way will move us towards that because we are made to understand that 40% of infant deaths is related to this issue of HIV/AIDS. And if it can be prevented, obviously, the Millennium Development Goal of reducing infant mortality will, somehow, be achieved or we’ll be moving towards that.
The issue of maternal mortality also’¦ the fact that it has increased within the country is attributed to the issue of HIV/AIDS.
And if we cut transmission from mother-to-child we’ll actually be helping to cut overall transmissions’¦ And the Development Goal on HIV/AIDS, of course we will have to strengthen the structures within SANAC. We are lagging behind, yes. There is all the fear, which is legitimate, that we won’t meet those goals. That’s why we need to accelerate and do things differently from the manner we’ve been doing them in the past, perhaps’, he said.
The health portfolio has become increasingly difficult over the last decade, mainly due to HIV/AIDS and declining services. As the Minister said himself, he will have to ‘hit the ground running’ to address the challenges over the next five years. These include addressing budgetary issues for health as well as enhancing the rollout of AIDS treatment. Currently, 700 000 people are receiving ARVs when it was envisaged that by this time over a million people would be covered by the treatment programme.