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Mediclinic News : PARTIES NOT CALLED OUT ON VOWS AS BIG-NAME TACTICS SIDELINE HEALTH

Title

PARTIES NOT CALLED OUT ON VOWS AS BIG-NAME TACTICS SIDELINE HEALTH

Date

2019-05-09

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News Description

BUSINESS DAY Parties campaigning for the May 8 elections are far more focused on personalities than issues, leaving the health care promises made by rivals in their election manifestos virtually unchallenged. There is no hard questioning of the government's progress in realising its ambitions for universal health coverage, which it calls National Health Insurance NHI, or public debate on the merits or otherwise of the DA's proposed alternative. The complexity of the issues partly explains why politicians on the campaign trail shy away from health care. But for the ANC, part of its reticence may simply be down to fear of losing voters. It has gone quiet on NHI, caught between a rock and a hard place: if it pushes too hard and signals the demise of medical schemes before establishing trust in the public sector, it risks scaring off voters who value their access to private health care providers. If it goes too slowly, it risks alienating SA's biggest trade union federation, Cosatu, and all the voters it brings along with it. Thus the ANC's election manifesto plays it safe on health care. It offers no new ideas or policies, trotting out the well-worn aspirations with which voters are all too familiar: it will bring the HIV epidemic under control, achieve universal health coverage by 2025, and develop a new legal framework to deal with the rising tide of medical malpractice claims. The DA continues its opposition to NHI, suggesting an alternative system in which everyone who belongs to a medical scheme will subsidise those without. It first flighted its "Our Health" plan in 2016, arguing its reforms would be quicker and cost less than NHI. Most of the party's other election campaign promises are fairly routine stuff digitise records, expand clinic hours, improve public transport to health facilities, and beef up health infrastructure. But it does put forward one novel idea, which is to introduce a voluntary national civilian service for young people who have finished school but do not go on to tertiary education. The programme would give young people work experience, while they earn a stipend, and help them to gain a foothold in the labour market like most political parties; the EFF's health care assurances are devoid of any discussion of how they will be paid for. It can afford to promise voters the earth because it knows it will not be elected to power, so escaping the hard reality of carving up a pie that is not big enough to go around. Its election manifesto includes dozens of health care undertakings, ranging from keeping clinics open 24 hours to providing rent free space for traditional healers to ply their trade in district hospitals. It will establish state owned firms to manufacture pharmaceuticals, ambulances and medical equipment, taking the ANC's more than a decade old promise to set up a state owned pharmaceutical company a step further. This wish of the ANC was hammered into a resolution at its 2007 national conference in Polokwane, but like so many policies born from wishful thin king rather than clear headed analysis, the project remains stuck on the drawing board. The IFP's election manifesto, like those of its biggest rivals, recognises the shortcomings in the current health care system by promising to fix the most glaring problems. It thus says it will improve health infrastructure, train more professionals and cut the prices of medicine. But it goes one step further, saying it will make traditional and complementary medicines more widely available, and implement a cancer policy in the workplace. A poll in February 2019 by the Institute of Race Relations found voters gave the ANC national government an overall score of 13% on health. It found EFF voters were more sympathetic than DA voters, but they still scored the government badly at 24%, compared with DA voters' 57%. ANC voters gave it a score of 3%. Curiously, it found that a high proportion of ANC voters who were very dissatisfied with the government over health care still believed the ANC was best equipped to tackle the issues. This dissonance is striking, given the extent to which voters' personal circumstances deter mine the quality of services they can obtain. The well-heeled can afford to pay for private healthcare services that are mostly available when they need them, while the poor take their chances with a public health sector that is capable of providing world class organ transplants, but frequently fails to meet patients' most basic needs. Health care is complex, the issues nuanced and hard to encapsulate in a soundbite. Yet it matters to voters. Politicians would do well to remember this as they enter the final stretch of the campaign trail
Created at 2019/05/13 11:59 AM by Mediclinic
Last modified at 2019/05/13 11:59 AM by Mediclinic