The National Health, Education and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) has vowed to defend the government’s National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.
The 274 000-member strong union that’s affiliated to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), also announced nationwide plan of action to teach their members about NHI.
“The reason we support NHI is because it’s a financial system in the health sector that will ensure universal access for all South Africans through a single purchaser system that will ensure that everyone receives the same health benefits. This regardless of their socio-economic reality or their ability to pay,” said Khaya Xaba, Nehawu national spokesperson.
Xaba said currently the health system in South Africa is divided into two spheres.
“The first sphere is the private sector for people who have money and the other is the public sector for people who don’t have money. We don’t want this kind of a situation. We only want one health system in the country,” he said.
The health department is selling the NHI as a health financing system designed to pool funds together to provide access to quality and affordable health care services to all South Africans based on their health needs, irrespective of their socio-economic status.
There have been different views on the NHI since government started promoting it as the carrier of decent health care. Opposition parties and some interest groups working in the health sector have opposed the NHI, saying the country does not have the money to sustain it.
But Xaba has dismissed this, saying people need to give NHI a chance.
Parliament has extended public submission and comments on the NHI Bill from both individuals and organisationsuntil 29 November and Nehawu says it will make its own submissions.
Xaba has appealed to government to improve infrastructure and human resources in the health sector for NHI to run smoothly.
“Government needs to fill vacant posts, to hire doctors, nurses and other necessities that will make NHI a success. Our members are willing and ready to serve in this health revolution. We also call for the reopening of the nursing colleges to ensure that we grow a new number of nurses [and ensure] absorption into the public system of community health care workers,” said Xaba.
He added that the union would soon embark on a nationwide campaign to enlighten people about NHI and mobilise union members and the working class to support the scheme.