Health Director-General Precious Matsoso has launched a strong appeal to the private health sector to come up with good "contracting models" whereby the state could as an example partner with private doctors to deliver services.
Addressing the annual Hospital Association of South Africa conference yesterday (SUBS: THURS), Matsoso said that in some instances "rather than erecting another clinic we could use the money to contract GPs (general practitioners)".
She said although it may be a difficult decision in some instances it may be necessary if government wanted to roll-out a Universal Healthcare or National Health Insurance (NHI) system.
Addressing the meeting, attended by private sector healthcare providers, Matsoso said that the private sector could also play a role in making facilities available to train state employees on how to maintain the quality of services.
"Why can't we learn from other experiences and use them," asked Matsoso, adding that there was no reason to wait and that some of these processes could already kick off in this financial year.
Indications are that government wants to use some of the NHI pilot sites to try the model whereby GPs deliver some of the services, however it is also known that health minster Dr Aaron Motsoaledi is insisting that this be paid for from national budgets. This would reduce the risk of provinces not paying providers and services grinding to a halt, as is currently the case in several provinces, especially Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and Gauteng.
Matsoso also said that if South Africa failed to address HIV and TB it might as well in the words of the health minister "close shop".
She said although there the indicators on HIV were good, there were still pockets where there was an upward trend and that this had to be addressed.
She ascribed the improvement in South Africa's life expectancy to the success of the antiretroviral treatment programme.
"But no matter what we do the weakness of the health system is undermining our ability to respond and the intervention cannot be government alone, we need partners," she said.
She said the "biggest problem" was human resources and that it would not be possible to produce these resources overnight.
"There are reasonable numbers (of health workers) in the private sector, so we need to engage in this discussion," said Matsoso, adding that Universal Healthcare did not mean the state had to provide everything.