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Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, says the learnings of the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic has highlighted the need to ensure that the health system is resilient in the long term to respond to future outbreaks.

The Minister said this when he tabled the department’s Budget Vote during a mini-plenary of the National Assembly on Thursday.

Government imposed a hard lockdown in March last year to allow the health sector to prepare the system for an influx of patients who needed to be hospitalised for COVID-19. In South Africa, and in most countries globally, field hospitals had to be added to bolster the number of beds in order to deal with increasing hospitalisations.

“Globally, the lesson from the impact of COVID-19 has emphasized the necessity of investing in long term resilience and sustainability of health systems to enable us to better respond to future health emergencies and crises.

“The COVID-19 pandemic caused significant health seeking deterrence and various results have pointed to this challenge.

“The mandates set out in the Performance Agreement that I signed with the President for the Period of June 2019 to April 2024, indicate the need for innovation to close these service delivery gaps.”

Mkhize said key amongst these include the establishment of the National Health Insurance (NHI) Fund, implementing the recommendations of the Health Market Inquiry Report, building human resource capacity, quality improvement, expansion of health infrastructure, risk management, uprooting corruption and ensuring clean governance as well as building partnerships through social compact.

SA to begin phase 2 of COVID-19 roll-out from 17 May

Mkhize said, meanwhile, that South Africa will begin phase 2 of its vaccination programme on Monday.

This as the country emerges from a tumultuous year of 2020, which resulted in 1.6 million positive COVID-19 cases and 54 968 people losing their lives.

“Our country is set to begin phase 2 of the vaccination program on 17th May 2021, targeting 130 sites in the public sector to be active next week, focusing on the population aged 60 and above and vulnerable groups, using Johnson and Johnson and Pfizer vaccine; as vaccination of the remainder of health care workers is being concluded.

“Private sector sites will open later next week,” he said.

Mkhize said over the medium term, the department’s most urgent focus is combatting the Coronavirus through government’s comprehensive local intervention programmes, for which R9 billion has been allocated.

“We continue to play our strategic roles as co-chair of the ACT-Accelerator and COVID-19 champion of the African Union, following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s outstanding leadership in his capacity as chair of the AU in 2020.”

Mkhize said, meanwhile, that the department will, come June, be piloting 16 Quality Learning Centres, defined as a cluster of health facilities at different levels of care servicing the same population.

He said the pilot cluster will comprise 80 hospitals and 64 Primary Health Care facilities.

“After incorporating the learnings from the pilot phase, the programme will gradually expand until all facilities belong to a quality learning centre.

“R13.7 billion has been allocated for supporting tertiary health care services which are offered at tertiary and central hospitals to service patients from different provinces.

“The grant compensates the provinces that suffer inequality that results from this arrangement.”


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