South Africa's move to providing universal health care through NHI is not meant to weaken the role of the private sector in
public health. On the contrary: as part of the reform, the government envisions increased partnership with the public sector.
Dr. Motsoaledi says that NHI should strengthen collaboration between the sectors. "When we say we want to bridge that gap
between the public and the private systems, we actually want to blend these systems so that they do not work as separate entities.
That is what NHI is all about. Can you blend the systems in such a way that they support each other instead of being separate?"
Collaboration between the public and private sector is occurring in many areas of the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry
across South Africa. For many, Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) are seen as a sustainable solution to some of the country's
most pressing health challenges.
Michael Flemming, CEO of Life Healthcare
Last year, the treasury department announced that private businesses would be attracted to the public health sector to improve
the quality of service in state hospitals. Critics raised concerns that private sector involvement would lead to expenditure
increases, job losses and a decline in the quality of care. Proponents countered criticism by arguing that there are not enough
state funds to make needed upgrades to public hospitals.
The Life Healthcare Group, a leading private hospital operator in South Africa, has the largest PPP in healthcare in the country.
One of the group's hospitals, Life Esidemi, is managed in partnership with the government. Michael Flemming, CEO of Life Healthcare
Group, says the collaboration is a success. "We have 4,000 beds which are full every day of the week, where we look after
government's patients. Life Esidemi is the perfect response to the government's need to increase the number of beds available
to its people."
Flemming believes that the PPP model provides a viable solution to the most pressing health challenges. "It is sad that the
government is not using this model more. It is good model, a cheap model, which provides good quality care."
It's a model that has also proven successful in addressing other public health challenges. In 2003, Litha Healthcare Group,
Ltd., a South African-based company with product offerings spanning across vaccines, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and
cold chain logistics, set up The Biovac Institute, a PPP which aims to improve the development and production of affordable,
quality vaccines for South Africa and its neighboring countries.
Richard de Chastelain, country division head of Bayer healthcare South Africa
The Biovac Institute is the only human vaccine manufacturing facility in South Africa. Its mission is to ensure that the country
has the required domestic capacity to respond to both local and regional vaccine needs.
Selwyn Kahanovitz, group CEO of Litha, says that a PPP was the right model given the public health need driving the institute's
mission. "In our case, the PPP model also allows the government to have strategic input to monitor what is happening, but
not to be in the driver's seat. It allows the private sector to operate, to drive, to make the business decisions. Meanwhile,
the government is in the background monitoring and making sure that the strategic objectives are met," he says.