Training enough nurses is crucial to the success of NHI. Picture: MARK ANDREWS
Training enough nurses is crucial to the success of NHI. Picture: MARK ANDREWS

The DA plans to seek legal advice on the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill, which is due to be tabled before the cabinet on December 5.

The hotly contested bill paves the way for the establishment of a central fund that will purchase services on behalf of patients, and is a vital step towards the government’s ambitions of providing universal health coverage.

The bill is now mired in controversy, after it emerged in early November that Treasury officials were butting heads with the president’s adviser, Olive Shisana, over a host of measures she and her team had introduced or changed after the public comment period on the bill had closed.

The Treasury also raised concerns over the extent to which public submissions were considered. The extent to which the Treasury’s concerns have been addressed is not clear at this stage, as cabinet documents are classified and rarely leaked.

The controversy was heightened last week after health director-general Precious Matsoso revealed that she had been side-lined and had played no role in revising the bill after it had been released for public comment in June, despite being the department's accounting officer. 

“If the ANC government continues to push through the NHI Bill without proper public participation and consultation, the DA will seek legal advice regarding the highly irregular process followed in revising the NHI Bill,” DA deputy health spokesperson Lindy Wilson said.

“The minister’s backdoor dealings subsequent to the closure of public comment period, effectively mutes any input from the public, as the proposed changes are substantive, and the public and other stakeholders have not had an opportunity to raise their concern.” 

Wilson said the revised NHI Bill should be made public, and the public participation process reopened.