The Western Cape Health Department has said 75% of people in the province are currently without medical aid cover.
News24 reports that the department was presenting to Parliament’s portfolio committee on health, providing a status update in its efforts to implement the “Ideal Clinic Initiative”.
Department head Dr Beth Engelbrecht told the committee the province is moving away from only treating illnesses and would now be focusing on wellness to help those uninsured. “The department really has to reflect on how to do business differently because we sit with these realities of a reduced budget but an increase in patient growth. Our strategic goal for 2030 is on wellness and not specifically the treatment of disease.”
The report says the Western Cape Health Department has a R20bn budget to treat its 6.3m people. The province has the highest life expectancy rate per capita in the country, at 66 years.
However, the report says, when it comes to HIV and Aids, people aged 24-35 are still the worst affected. There was also a worrying increase in contraction of the virus among adolescent girls, the only provincial increase in the country in that age bracket. HIV/Aids was, however, no longer the main cause of death in children under 5, now accounting for 7% of child deaths, falling 13% since 2000. It was however still the leading cause of maternal deaths, with 36% linked to the virus. Almost half of maternal deaths are avoidable, the department said.
At least 58% of South Africa’s deaths were linked to chronic illnesses and 32.7% of women were obese in the province, which was 8% higher than the national average, while a shocking 80% of people with mental disorders do not receive treatment.
Like the Eastern Cape, the province also had budget constraints. Engelbrecht is quoted in the report as saying that the department’s real term budget was actually decreasing due to a renewed wage agreement with its 31 300 staff members.
Provincial health MEC Noma-French Mbombo told the committee that the only way for the province to get ahead of its issues was to focus on prevention and the “road to wellness”. “When it comes to health, we have to focus on the poorest of the poor. Unlike other departments, in health, we have to look after citizens from the cradle to the grave, from the oldest to the youngest.”
With regard to the Ideal Clinic Initiative, a policy initiated by Parliament in 2013, the province said it was hoping to achieve the status in all its clinics by March 2017, with training having already been received by some staff in earlier this year.