South African Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi

“Since the recall, we have had less than five cases a week in the past five weeks compared to 40 a week before the recall,” Motsoaledi said during his R205-billion Budget Vote in Parliament

Meanwhile, government aims to test 14 million people over the next two years, hunting for new HIV, tuberculosis, diabetes and hypertension patients – despite the fact that health facilities are “overburdened” and unlikely to cope with additional patients.

Motsoaledi said that private doctors would be brought in to treat the additional patients.

Campaign Surge

The massive testing campaign – to be called “Surge” – will be launched next month by President Cyril Ramaphosa. It aims to identify two million new HIV positive people, 80,000 people with TB and “thousands and thousands” of diabetes cases over the next two years.

“I am sure none of you will ever suggest that we cannot treat more people simply because the system is overburdened,” said Motsoaledi. “This is where the [National Health Insurance] comes in.

“The essence of NHI is to make sure that both public health facilities and skills and the private sector facilities and skills are available to all the citizens of our country,” said Motsoaledi.

Although the R4,2-billion allocated by Treasury for the NHI is lower than the department hoped, most of this money will be used to screen people, particularly school kids, for diseases and buy the time of private sector health workers to treat patients.

Over the next two years, the treatment of 50,000 HIV positive patients will be “decanted” to 250 private doctors.

Private doctors to assess awaiting-trial prisoners

In addition, 52 private psychiatrists and 71 psychologists are going to be brought in to address the backlog of 1431 awaiting-trial prisoners referred to the state for mental evaluation.

This backlog is “clogging up the criminal justice system and worsening the congestion in mental health facilities”, said Motsoaledi.

Government is also planning a “massive” cancer campaign, said Motsoaledi. It has allocated R100-million to oncology services in KwaZulu and Gauteng to address radiation backlogs.

Government will also “uncompromisingly target tobacco smoking and unnecessary sugar intake” – both of which cause cancer.

“Please do not allow yourselves to be rented by tobacco and sugar companies to become their spokespersons here in Parliament and in communities,” a cheerful Motsoaledi warned MPs.

Lindelwa Dunjwa, chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health, said she hoped that Parliament would debate the NHI Bill in this year.

However, the DA’s shadow minister of health, Patricia Kopano, said health services were hampered by the “misuse of funds, lack of accountability and corruption”.

She said Buthelezi Emergency Medical Services and Mediosa had made millions in the Free State and North West but delivered “sub-standard services”.

Kopano also said that the NHI had not improved services, and many private sector doctors who had been brought in to assist had not been paid.

However, Motsoaledi countered that corruption is a crime, and “anyone found to have stolen from the poor must be arrested”.

“I met with the head of the Hawks last week and asked ‘how far are you’? You need to arrest people’.” – Health-e News.