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we all deserve equal access to health care

19 September 2007

Dr Lydia Cairncross addressed the issue of health inequality in the private and public sector at the ETHICAL LEADERSHIP IN AND THROUGH POLITICS CONFERENCE. Sharon Machanzi attended this session on the 2nd day on behalf of DEVELOPMENT WORKS and captures some of the key points that Dr Lydia raised …

Dr Cairncross presented her topic in such clear, precise and intelligent manner that the audience did not have a single question for her at question time. Sharon attributes this to the fact that Dr Cairncross works in the public health system and her comments where input from her real life experiences each and every day. These experiences were echoed by many in the audience as could be often heard by the “ahas” and” hmms”.

Dr Cairncross reflected on the huge disparity between the private and public health sector in South Africa. If silence was anything to go by, it seemed many in the audiencee agreed with the facts and statistics that were put forward by the Doctor. Access to health care is a basic human right. Dr Cairncross put it across that it should then be affordable to all. From all the statistics and figures she gave, what was interesting was that all training of medical personnel is done in public health institutions and the government pays for this training. At the end of it all most of the medical personnel abandon the public health system to work in the private system. Often patients are even dumped back into the public health system when they can no longer afford to pay at the private institutions. This is in spite of the fact that the private health system serves only 15% of the population as to the 85% in the public health system. Yet the private hospitals are overstaffed while the public hospitals are understaffed.

Health should NOT be looked at as a commodity that can only be bought. What happens to the unemployed? Or those that earn less and cannot afford the fees in public hospitals or cannot afford to be on a medical aid? Private Public partnership apparently do not work as well as most of us would think. The public sector is most often out to make profit at the expensive of giving an essential service to even the most needy of the public.

The solution to these disparities in the health sector according to Dr Cairnsross can be solved by having a unitary health system, a system of health provision that allows equal and free health for all. Can anyone in South Africa can walk through the doors of any health facility and get exactly the same health system despite their income? To her, the answer is that this is possible. The funds for this to happen are available. It is a matter of redistributing these funds to ensure that all can access quality health care anytime, anywhere, despite who they are or how much they earn.

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Sectors: Health.

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