Johannesburg, 12 July 2019 – The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) welcomes the budget vote tabled by Minister Zweli Mkhize in Parliament today, outlining his department’s priorities. In it, the Minister tables a budget for R51,46 Billion, which we believe is sadly not enough to address all the healthcare challenges at the moment. We call for the allocation of more funds to healthcare, in order to foster a strong and world class public health care service in the country. We, however, caution that money alone is not the panacea for the public health care crisis we see on a day to day basis in communities throughout the country. Increased health financing should also be coupled with efficient use of funds, improved staff attitudes and adequately trained staff, among many other factors. To that end, we are happy to hear that the Ministry is developing a blueprint to achieve this.
We also acknowledge the efforts taken by the Department of Health in emphasizing engagement with multiple stakeholders, acknowledging that the road to a fully functional healthcare sector involves pulling together in the same direction. We have committed to working together with the department in an attempt to achieve this in a meeting held between the Department of Health, TAC, SECTION27 and Cancer Alliance on 09 July 2019. Emphasis was placed on health systems strengthening, with strengthening primary health care through health financing, ensuring access to medicines, the reduction of staff shortages, improving the HIV and TB response, and the improvement of existing infrastructure and equipment at the core of the engagement. We welcome the fact that this shone through in the budget vote speech today but realise that there is a long way to go. For instance, while we welcome the Department’s aim to fill “2680 medical officers posts, 2371 nursing posts and 5646 Community Health Workers posts”, we would be remiss not to state that this is not nearly enough.
Drug stockouts, particularly of second line regimen ART and contraceptives (particularly where barrier methods are also not available or used) have plagued communities, sometimes leading to defaulting on treatment, HIV infections and pregnancies. The latter is accentuated by the inability or reluctance of health facilities to provide termination of pregnancy services as per the Constitutional right of healthcare users. We are pleased that the Minister highlighted this issue and we look forward to the normalisation of shortages and stockouts reportage through harnessing technology and increased community engagement, as well as speedier resolution times.
As a grassroots organization whose membership is reflective of the hardships experienced in the country, TAC has always championed Universal Health Coverage in a bid to reduce the gap in the two-tier healthcare system. We commit to actively participating in it and supporting it, if done within the prescripts of the Constitution and ensures access to quality healthcare for all. Previously the TAC and SECTION27 have made submissions in this regard, which offer a comprehensive analysis on the draft bill.
Lastly, TAC and its partners will be engaging in an in-depth analysis of the budget line items and we will offer a more detailed analysis in the near future.
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