UNIONS in South Africa are calling for a national health insurance (NHI) scheme to help tackle the country’s healthcare crisis.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said in a statement that it is dismayed by comments by the country’s Minister for Finance Enoch Godongwana that the Treasury opposes the NHI Bill and policy mandate that has been adopted by Cabinet, agreed by the National Assembly and which is currently before the National Council of Provinces.
Cosatu said: “We need the government to speak with one voice as this level of policy uncertainty is not helpful. The ANC needs to exert itself and remind the government that the NHI is an ANC policy mandate not some abstract slogan.
“Cosatu and the overwhelming majority of workers are in support of an NHI. It is a government policy and market failure that 29 years into democracy most South Africans, in particular the working class, lack access to quality and affordable health care.”
The union body said: “This is not due to lack of resources but to their blatantly skewed distribution.”
South Africa spends around 8.5 per cent of its gross domestic product on healthcare.
This is higher than many industrialised nations but half of this is spent on the 16 per cent of South Africans who have medical aid.
The other half is spent on public health care for the 84 per cent dependent on the state.
Cosatu says that as a result “we have first class but under-utilised private health care available for 16 per cent but charged at exorbitant prices and public health care overwhelmed with long queues, critical post vacancies, ageing infrastructure and shortages” for the rest of society.
It said: “The right to life and access to healthcare is a constitutional right. It is time that all South Africans are afforded this right.”