By Jack Bloom MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health:
I welcome the reported proposal by Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu to use private hospitals to treat overflow patients from public hospitals.
This is a good idea provided it is done through proper negotiation rather than coercion.
It makes sense for government to pay to use spare beds in private hospitals.
Private doctors can also be contracted to cut down the serious surgery backlogs so that patients don’t wait years for certain operations.
The problem is that the Gauteng Health Department lacks the skills and flexibility to partner in a mutually beneficial way with the private health sector.
This is why private GPs have been slow to participate in the district health project in Tshwane which is a pilot for Government’s proposed National Health Insurance (NHI). Payment concerns are a major reason for this failure.
Netcare currently sends doctors to do surgery in the British National Health system, so a similar scheme in Gauteng could also work well.
MEC Mahlangu is correct to observe that 16 000 public hospital beds are inadequate to serve Gauteng’s 12 million population.
The solution is greater efficiency in spending the R34.2 billion annual health budget, and cooperating fruitfully with the private health sector to provide a better service to the public.