Staff shortage threatens state’s health programme
The government’s proposed National Health Insurance System (NHI) cannot be successfully implemented before the government has not deployed enough health providers to the right geographic locations.
According to Dr Johan Lamprecht of the School of Pharmacy at the North-West University’s Potchefstroom Campus, the NHI programme can be a success if the State and relevant statutory councils pull up their socks with regard to training and the placement of professional health care staff. Lamprecht says that approximately 40% of South Africa’s total health care costs are currently spent on 85% of the total population, while a massive 60% is spent on 15% of the population that belongs to medical aids. “In this respect the NHI offers a good solution. The above-mentioned figures are unhealthy, and the NHI can possibly level the playing field for medical service delivery. If more professional health care staff can be trained and deployed, the massive demand for medical service providers can be reduced. This will result in the NHI programme effecting a win-win situation between government institutions and the private sector. Patients will then possibly also have a bigger choice where they want to receive treatment. The location, accessibility, availability and effectiveness of medical care are now going to play a role and not necessarily the affordability thereof anymore.”
According to a colleague of Lamprecht, Prof Jan Serfontein, the demand for, amongst others, pharmacists is critical. “More than 45 municipalities in the country have no pharmacists and at least 40 municipalities only have one pharmacist for the entire municipal area.” He says the biggest problem responsible for this is misdistribution of pharmacists. “How can one shopping centre have three pharmacies, but a rural town doesn’t even have a single pharmacy?” Serfontein further emphasises that a lot must still be done before the NHI can be successfully implemented.
According to Prof Awie Kotze, Director of the School of Pharmacy, their aim is to train enough pharmaceutical care service providers, thereby being able to act proactively as soon as the NHI is put into service. “In this respect there is a national plan in which the School of Pharmacy will become involved to train pharmacist assistants and pharmacist technicians.”
The NWU Potchefstroom Campus’ School of Pharmacy has already launched an advanced course for postgraduate training of graduated students to enable them to be possibly accredited by the NHI. “The University has the capacity to get students ready for the NHI, but will the government see the opportunity and implement it? It remains an open question,” says Lamprecht. He also says that the NHI is indeed a political initiative that attempts to keep up with especially first-world countries and to prove that the governing party fulfils their institutional duty – medical care for all. “But the government must now also make it work. It is therefore also their responsibility to make use of the capacity delivered by tertiary training, thus tasting the success of the NHI.”