The country currently spends about four percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on public health services, and a quarter of this is devoted to HIV.

South Africa will probably have to push up public spending on health by at least another two percent of GDP to make a significant impact on reducing early childhood deaths, said Blecher this week at the launch of a new report on investments in health in The Lancet.

However, with the introduction of the National Health Insurance (NHI), South Africa is likely to reach this level of spending.

Dick Forslund, a researcher at the Alternative Information and Development Centre, reported last week that the NHI was not mentioned in Treasury’s September’s medium-term budget policy statement.

While Blecher said that it is true that the NHI does not appear per se in the budget, he said that Treasury was waiting for the White Paper on the NHI to be released.

However Blecher said that the medium-term budget made provision for early NHI work and includes two conditional grants dedicated to supporting the NHI. One of these grants will go to contracting about 600 private doctors to work part-time in government clinics.

But Wits health economist Professor Alex Van Den Heever cautioned that better health is not all about spending more money.

The country currently spends about R7 000 per patient per year, which is roughly the same amount of money as Cuba but South Africa continues to have far worse health outcomes than the island nation. Getting better results for money will involve making the health system more efficient, Van Den Heever said. – Health-e News Service.