GERGE NEWS - A myriad of questions rained down on a panel of parliamentarians during a public meeting on the National Health Insurance Bill last Friday. Members of the National Portfolio Committee on Health spent the best part of Friday evening at the George Civic Centre, surrounded by 265 individuals who wanted to know more about the controversial bill.
The event, called a "public hearing", aimed to give residents an opportunity to understand what exactly the bill means and offered the opportunity to ask questions. However, from the onset it was clear that several attendees would leave unsatisfied, with more questions than answers. The public was told that their concerns are noted and will be dealt with on another level.
Some voiced their utter frustration with the current public health care system and asked for the fast-tracking of the implementation processes, while the majority voiced their grave concern - especially on how the bill will affect the current private healthcare system.
Garden Route Mayor Memory Booysen said his interpretation of the bill in its current state is that it will put strain on the economy. "It is a one-size-fits-all. Some of us are working, which means we have medical aid - we have choices. I feel for those who can't afford medical aid and are unemployed. The problem in South Africa is the public health facilities need to be upgraded to the same standard."
ANC Ward Councillor Phumela Nosana welcomed the bill, but asked for a look at chronic illnesses, especially diabetes in children. She also said people are getting robbed, injured and murdered while standing in queues at the clinics in the early morning hours. Peter Noble from Pacaltsdorp wanted to know how much "those who have" will be taxed.
Portfolio Committee on Health chairperson, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, said the public will be able to see some manifestations of the NHI Bill by 2026.
Meanwhile, the bill is being called "disastrous" by the DA, that has submitted roughly 100 000 objections by the end of last year. "We reject the NHI Bill in its current form, which has the potential to become yet another failing state-owned enterprise which may be detrimental towards the health of our people," said MPP Wendy Philander, DA Western Cape spokesperson on health.
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