Hon Deputy Chairperson, hon Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, hon Deputy Minister Gwen Ramokgopa, hon Members of Parliament and comrades, let me take this opportunity to express our condolences to the Mkhize family.
Sithi akuhlanga lungehli. [We send our condolences to you.]
The sections of the Freedom Charter on health commit us to a preventive health scheme run by the state, and free medical care and hospitalisation provided for all, with special care for mothers and young children. Although there have been many achievements in improving access to health care, much more needs to be done in regard to quality of care and making services available to all South Africans through ensuring better health outcomes.
South Africa commands huge health care resources, as compared with many middle-income countries. Yet, the bulk of these resources are in the private sector and serve a minority of the population, thereby undermining the country's ability to provide quality care and improve health care outcomes. The ANC is determined to end the huge inequalities that exist in the public and private sectors by making sure that these sectors work together.
It has been impossible to correct the disparities and contradictions we have inherited in the short space of 17 years, but we do need to speed up service delivery to our people. Health being a fundamental basic human right compels our government, led by the ANC, the party that received the support of the overwhelming majority of South Africans, to fulfil this basic right.
Hence, we are beginning the process of implementing the National Health Insurance, or NHI as it is more commonly referred to. There has been a great deal of speculation in various quarters, mostly negative, but what is it based on? We are still waiting for the tabling of a document that will guide the process to a conclusion that will hopefully satisfy all stakeholders.
Parliament should track the use of the hospital revitalisation grant by establishing how far the department is in regard to modernising or transforming infrastructure and equipment in hospitals, and monitoring whether the quality of care in hospitals is in line with the national policy objectives.
Some may continue to argue for a free market in health, but this cannot be justified when it hampers the fulfilment of a basic human right to which our people are entitled. Through the NHI we can achieve equity in health care, as the current disparities cannot be allowed to continue.
Also, through the consultation process we will address the fears and confusion of the general public. To correct the inequities in health requires a process that moves our country towards universal access. This also requires us to address the socioeconomic disparities that prevail in our country.
The process of developing the NHI will require reaching consensus with all relevant stakeholders on a few key elements, namely a basic benefit package, a National Health Fund, and the role of private funders and providers. The above will naturally follow the normal democratic process of in-depth discussion and engagement, with a view to finding the best solution which is practical and affordable.
Chairperson, in addressing the health care inequities and as a key component of the NHI, we also have to address the issue of human resources. The retention of staff is critical if we want to succeed, particularly in the rural and remote areas, where staff experience a lack of equipment and, more critically, a lack of support.
The intervention by the department to deal with the long-standing problem of damaged medical equipment piling up in hospital corridors and the recruitment of 36 junior engineers to repair these instruments is highly applauded. No more purchasing of equipment, one piece on top of the other. This initiative encourages youth to take issues of skilling and development seriously, and job creation is also addressed by this initiative. It is critical for government to review the incentives it offers to attract health care professionals, but it is equally important to address the issues of equipment, structural deficiencies and support.
The increased burden of disease is placing enormous strain on our resources and the wellbeing of health care professionals and health workers in general. As the burden of disease increases, it negates the advances we are making in filling vacancies.
South Africa is faced with a quadruple burden of disease. It is thus important for Parliament to assess the department's interventions and programmes to curb disease and illness.
Tuberculosis, TB, is rife in South Africa, especially with the links with HIV and Aids that have been found. It is thus important to minimise the number of TB cases, and to ensure compliance with treatment. That is why we support the department, which has acquired the new GeneXpert technology. This total revolution in the diagnosis of TB is the first breakthrough developed after more than 50 years of relying on microscopy and culture run issues. We welcome this innovation, Deputy Chairperson.
These are challenges we need to confront and resolve as we progress towards the implementation of the NHI. In addressing these we must also be mindful that the budget for Health has been declining in real terms. As a key priority of government, we expect the budget for Health to receive far more urgent attention in order for it to meet the demands of our people.
Chairperson, a key priority is the programme of hospital revitalisation, which also incorporates preventative maintenance to ensure good maintenance of our health facilities in the provinces. This demonstrates the urgent need for us to explore public-private partnerships more vigorously and it also demonstrates the urgent need for the sharing of resources to improve the health profile of our country and achieving social solidarity.
A lot has been said about the high maternal and child mortality in our country, and the challenges we face. You have noted, hon members, that most of our interventions in HIV and Aids are directed at pregnant women and children. We will work hard to reduce the mortalities of these targeted groups.
Deputy Chairperson, we need to move beyond making primary health care a slogan, and make it a reality for us and our children and grandchildren. We need it because it benefits the majority of South Africans, who look to the state to help them. These are the people that have put us where we are today, and the only favour we can return is for us to strive for a better health system, which will guarantee them better health. We want to ask the department to double its efforts to give adequate attention to the primary health care programme as our hope for the future. The hope for a better life for some of our people is based on better health.
The initiative taken by the department to improve its management at all levels is welcomed. Deputy Chairperson, this area of management has contributed to lots of the problems experienced by the Health department nationally. Properly qualified people and people with relevant skills and experience will be appointed to these critical positions in future.
Teenage pregnancy is a worry. It is still prevalent in our schools. As the ANC we believe that the introduction of the school nurse programme will alleviate the health problems we have in our schools. We believe that recruiting retired nurses will yield positive results, because they are more experienced at all levels, particularly in educating boys and girls on issues of sex, prevention and pregnancy.
In the NCOP's programme of "Taking Parliament to the People", provinces such as Limpopo and the Free State were visited. Deputy Chairperson, it will be interesting to hear from the MECs to what extent they have addressed the challenges identified and reported by the NCOP visit. The same applies to KwaZulu-Natal, KZN. The Social Services select committee also paid a visit to this province, where a number of problems were identified and reported to the relevant office.
In conclusion, the ANC-led government will continue to invest in research and development in the health sector, including infant mortality research, HIV prevention technologies, health status surveys, development of new medicines and indigenous knowledge systems. Lastly, I would like to support the report from the department. I thank you. [Applause.]