Samwumed saga finally appears to be over
The new curator of the union’s medical aid has promised more private healthcare benefits and a market-related increase in contributions
Months of controversy appear to be over for South African Municipal Workers’ Union Medical Aid (Samwumed) members who have been informed by the scheme curator, Joe Seoloane, that they will enjoy more private healthcare benefits and a market-related 7.9% increase in contributions next year.
Seoloane’s appointment as curator was confirmed by the Cape high court late last month after the former trustees of the scheme withdrew their opposition to the scheme being placed under curatorship.
Seoloane’s appointment brings to a close four different court applications and, according to him, he has made good progress dealing with many of the issues raised in those applications — although it is still early days.
Days before his final appointment, the Cape high court removed the provisional curator, Duduza Khosana.
Sipho Kabane, the acting Registrar of Medical Schemes, had recommended the same court appoint Khosana in May when he asked the court to put the scheme under provisional curatorship as its board was dysfunctional. But in August, the former trustees, led by André Maxwell, applied to the court to have Khosana removed saying her decisions were causing irreparable harm to the scheme for some 80,000 unionised municipal workers and their dependants.
Kabane launched his own application to have Khosana removed shortly after saying the provisional curator had failed to inform him of her plan for the scheme, or report back to him on her actions at the scheme.
The applications were successful but Khosana then lodged an application for leave to appeal and refused to leave the scheme. She only handed over control of the scheme to Seoloane after Kabane successfully filed another urgent application to the court.
Factions within the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu), which provides trustees for the scheme, led to the curatorship order. The disputes over the union’s leadership were subsequently settled out of court, but the settlement was challenged and then resolved by a Constitutional Court judgment on October 29.
Seoloane is now addressing the benefit issues at the scheme.
Members were complaining about using state facilities as the designated service provider for certain hospital, radiology and pathology benefits, but Seoloane has put an end to this as he says the scheme had no contract with the state for these services.
A contract with Cape-based hospital group Melomed that helps contain hospital and specialist claims will remain in place to cover the needs of members and benefit the scheme, he said.
Seoloane said he was also meeting with the big municipalities to address concerns they have about the scheme.
The curator allayed concerns raised in the former trustees’ court papers that the revised benefits were unsustainable, saying the scheme needed to take a hard line on fraud, wastage and abuse, and to look for cost-efficiencies with providers, but that it would still deliver an operating surplus next year and its healthy R1bn reserves were not at risk.
The curator said he had good co-operation from suspended senior managers at the scheme but procedures instituted against them would be allowed to run their course before any decisions were made about their future at the scheme.
Seoloane said the scheme’s financial statements for 2015 and 2017 have to be adopted at an AGM after which a new board could, potentially, be elected at the 2019 AGM, or soon thereafter.