S. Africa to Build 213 New Clinics & 43 New Hospitals

Pretoria - Government will, under the National Health Insurance (NHI), build a minimum of 213 new clinics across the country within the next five years.

Addressing media during a post-State of the Nation Address briefing in Cape Town on Tuesday, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced that within the next five years, the department will also refurbish and re-equip 870 clinics in the 11 pilot districts of NHI.

"To facilitate a seamless referral system upwards, we shall supplement this by building 43 brand new hospitals," Motsoaledi said.

Reiterating President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address last week that the country had a good story to tell in the improvement of healthcare, Motsoaledi highlighted that after democracy dawned in 1994, access to health services took a central role.

"Many areas, especially black rural areas, did not even have primary health care facilities in the form of clinics. Hence a lot of clinics were constructed in the rural areas under a special programme foreseen at the national level but implemented at provincial level.

"Today, more than 40% of all clinics existing in South Africa were built after Tata Nelson Mandela became our first democratically elected President," Motsoaledi noted.

According to stats SA reports in 2012, the number of people who go directly to clinics increased from 44.5% in 2004 to 55.6% in 2012. Motsoaledi said was an indication of increased access to primary healthcare facilities.

Human Resources for Health

According to the World Health Organisation, human resources for health is among the six building blocks of a healthcare system.

Motsoaledi noted that as of January 2014, a total of 44 000 community service health professional have been placed in remote, rural and underserved areas, since the introduction of community service in 1998.

"This has greatly increased access to healthcare. We have asked our medical schools to try and over stretch themselves and we are happy that they have obliged.

"In 2012, 220 additional medical students, who would ordinarily not be admitted to medical schools, were actually enrolled.  This figure increased to 425 across our medical schools," said the minister.

Today, there are 2 074 South African students from rural areas and disadvantaged backgrounds studying medicine in Cuba. The department decided to upgrade the programme from the traditional 60 students per annum at inception of the programme to about a 1 000 per annum since 2012.

Motsoaledi added that through the Public Health Enhancement Fund, he hoped to produce 1000 PHDs in 10 years' time.

In 2012, 13 PHDs have been enrolled from the fund, including a further 24 by the end of 2013, mostly in the field of HIV and Aids and TB research.