Participating in a panel discussion on public health infrastructure, Shisana said South Africa had been discussing the development of a national health system since 1936 and that the country was now in 2012 the furthest down the road it had ever been towards making such a system a reality.
‘It can’t be reversed now, by next year Government will be piloting 20 districts,’ she said.
‘The problem is we are good at exporting ideas and in fact we should have implemented NHI before Britain. The main reason we haven’t is because of resistance from the private sector,’ Shisana claimed.
Speaking on another panel, Adrian Gore, CEO of Discovery Holdings said the health system problems were hugely complex and were ‘largely problems of mistrust’ between the public and private sector.
‘We need an embracing of a common vision and the leadership in the health sector has now come a long way in trying to achieve this,’ said Gore.
He identified human resources as one of the most pressing problems. Gore said despite the fact that 60 percent of doctors were working in the private sector, the issue was more that too few doctors were being trained.
South Africa currently trains two doctors for every 100 000 people, but needs to produce between five and six doctors per 100 000.
‘So it’s not only a distribution problem,’ he said, adding that the private sector could play a role in retaining resources in the country.
Lord Nigel Crisp, former Chief Executive of the National Health System (NHS) in England and Permanent Secretary of the UK Department of Health, said Africa was rewriting the rules on health.
Crisp, now the Chairman of the Global Health Workforce Alliance, said ‘we are now talking about African solutions for African problems and informed by global experience’.
‘The continent is in desperate need and that is the context within which we are working,’ said Crisp.