Representatives from the Gauteng Department of health said the province would led the implementation of NHI.

The National Health Insurance (NHI) bill took centre stage at the annual Steve Biko lecture on Thursday, September 12, at the Marie Curie Theatre at Wits University.

David Maimela, chief of staff for the Gauteng MEC for Health Dr Bandile Masuku, stepped in to deliver the lecture after Masuku pulled out at the last minute.

Maimela highlighted the significance of Biko’s death for the issue of bioethics and said “Biko’s spirit is alive and present in the propositions”, on how to achieve a better health care system for all.

Maimela claimed 90 percent of the clinics in Gauteng are ready for the implementation of the NHI which a family physician based in Soweto disputed.

“I am responsible for the clinical governance of 29 clinics in Soweto and I can tell you the readiness of clinics for NHI is pretty well nothing. Out of the five CSCs (Community Specialist Clinics) in Soweto, two have not had a clinic manager for two years,” the physician said.

“|I somewhat agree with you. NHI is not a panacea [cure] to all our problems but it is step in the right direction and a fundamental step in achieving universal health care.” Maimela said in response.

“The other thing is, it is important to note – NHI is not a healthcare system. It is the funding vehicle to cater to the funding needs of the health care system. There is a clear distinction. We cannot not implement an idea that’s time has come because we are scared of risks,” Maimela added.

The second speaker, former MEC for health in Gauteng Dr Gwen Ramakgopa was greeted with applause by the attendees.

“Africa is rich. It can provide quality healthcare to all its citizens,” Ramakgopa insisted.

Ramakgopa, a medical doctor also promised NHI will cover permanent residents and inmates too but said that, due to limited resources and funds, refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants would only be covered to a certain extent based on the legality of their residence in South Africa.

The lecture took place on the  42nd anniversary of the death of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko and hosted by the Wits’ Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics.

FEATURED IMAGE: The annual Steve Biko Bioethics lecture was held on the anniversary of the freedom fighter’s death. Photo: Wits Vuvuzela.