Experts have warned that the incoming National Health Insurance (NHI) may be dead on arrival as a large number of doctors plan to leave South Africa or have already left.
The incoming NHI will rely on a large network of doctors to service patients around the country, with government promising ‘universal health coverage’.
However, the Sunday Times reports that the bill has renewed fears about mass emigration of doctors and other health professionals, which would kill any health plan that relies explicitly on there being more doctors.
Speaking to the paper, Dr Chris Archer, CEO of the South African Private Practitioners Forum said that his members are extremely concerned and that the bill may drive emigration as “those who want to leave see it as a reason to do so”.
Profmed medical aid CEO Craig Comrie said that health professionals are already emigrating.
Comrie said Profmed’s members are mainly health professionals, of whom 17% leave each year. This rose to 30% in June and July.
Alex van den Heever, Wits School of Governance professor, added that he expects medical professionals to emigrate in their hundreds, joining their countrymen in countries like Dubai and Australia.
These concerns align with research published by Solidarity, which has previously warned that the introduction of the NHI could lead to a mass exodus of doctors from the country.
One of the most worrying findings in the survey was that 83.2% of healthcare workers believed that private health professionals will leave the country if the NHI is implemented. 43% of the respondents said that they themselves would consider emigrating.
There was also a firm belief that the scheme would completely destabilise the country’s healthcare as a result.
The major points of concern are:
- Shortages of specialists, doctors, nursing staff and other healthcare workers;
- Financial management of the NHI;
- Purchasing and distribution of medicines and equipment; and
- Maintenance of infrastructure and equipment.