Precious Matsoso, director-general of health. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Precious Matsoso, director-general of health. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

The private sector has a vital role to play in realising the government’s ambitions for National Health Insurance (NHI), health director-general Precious Matsoso said on Sunday at the launch of a new umbrella body for the private health-care sector.

NHI is the government’s policy for achieving universal health-care coverage (UHC) and aims to ensure that all patients are provided with care that is free at the point of delivery.

 “The efforts towards UHC cannot ignore the private sector. The private sector’s involvement in health systems is significant in scale and scope,” Matsoso said in a statement released at the launch of the SA chapter of the Africa Healthcare Federation (AHF).

The AHF provides a platform for the private sector to engage with the state on health-care issues. Regional chapters have been founded in East, West and Central Africa, and a North African chapter is expected to be launched in Addis Ababa in October.

The local chapter, called the Healthcare Federation of SA (HFSA), aims to create a platform for the private health-care sector to engage with the government on NHI. It has been endorsed by the health department and the AU.

Its participants include the Independent Practitioners Association Foundation, the SA Medical Association, the SA Medical Technology Industry Association, the Board of Healthcare Funders, Lenmed, Allegra, Ottobock, Neuberg Global and First Care.

“It is time to recognise the critical role the private-sector providers and other actors can and must play,” said Matsoso. “The private health-care federation is a formalised platform of all health-care stakeholders who will work with government to deliver health care to all citizens via the NHI programme. This must be a partnership and not a private solution to a public problem,” she said.

“The crucial policy question about the private sector is not its performance in isolation, or relative to the public sector, but the extent to which it supports or detracts from progress towards universal health coverage,” she said.

AHF chair Amit Thakker said the Kenyan Healthcare Federation had helped build trust between the government and private health-care players. One of its achievements was the abolition of VAT on health-care-related imports such as active pharmaceutical ingredients, which had lowered the cost of providing health care, he said.

kahnt@businesslive.co.za