Good news for healthcare despite the NHI’s progress

 ·27 Aug 2023

Despite 40% of doctors stating that they would leave South Africa if the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill is implemented – with some already heading for the doors – a group of 36 of the country’s top medical fraternity say they are staying no matter what.

According to the City Press, a group of 36 of the country’s top medical fraternity have put their own money into a new private hospital – the Johannesburg Surgical Hospital (JSH) – worth R700 million.

The hospital’s manager, Alex Daneel, noted The JSH will be located on Beyers Naudé Drive and will feature advanced equipment, scanners, and digital systems. It will also have a radiology department, emergency, intensive care and high-care units, pathology services, and laundry facilities.

According to the report, the new hospital would be home to some of South Africa’s top physicians, orthopaedic surgeons, plastic surgeons, vascular surgeons, cardiothoracic surgeons, neurosurgeons, cardiologists, urologists, and radiologists.

A partner in the JSH, Dr. Jaco Strobos, noted that all of these specialists are shareholders in the hospital, holding no more than 5% to prevent any one person from being able to sell the hospital.

The City Press added that the hospital is planned to open to the public in September of this year, while a medical complex expansion worth R180 million is expected to open early next year – followed by a third expansion project worth R230 million is still in the pipeline.

The doctors are here to stay

Strobos noted that all the specialists investing in the JSH are South Africans who see a future in the country, irrespective of the introduction of the NHI Bill.

“I don’t lose sleep over what’s negative or what I can’t change. There will always be sickness, and people will need medical care, and we believe that, even with NHI, there’ll be a need for collaboration with the JSH because of our specialist fields,” he said to the City Press.

Despite the NHI, the economic climate, load shedding and other challenges, this belief in South Africa and its healthcare sector is shared among all the JSH partners, which is what prompted them to invest in a private hospital of this magnitude.

NHI uncertainty will still lead to some exits

A survey conducted by the South African Medical Association (Sama) among its members in 2020 found that 38% of respondents said they would consider emigrating if the NHI was fully implemented.

39% of doctors said they would not leave, 17% were unsure, and 6% would emigrate for other reasons, the survey found.

Another report published by the Solidarity Research Institute (SRI) revealed that only 15% of the medical professionals surveyed believe that it would be possible to successfully implement the NHI, and 84.5% are of the view that the implementation of the NHI could destabilise the healthcare system in South Africa and could harm the high-quality service already being provided by the private sector.

While this data is only suggestive, Canadian immigration consultant Nicholas Avramis noted that, in 2023, thousands of South African doctors are already considering making their exit.

Avramis noted that since January 2023, his offices had received around 17,000 enquiries from South Africans looking to move, and a large portion of these has stemmed from the uncertainty surrounding the proposed changes under the recently passed NHI bill.

Read: The absurd tax changes South Africa would have to make to afford the NHI

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