Black Sash Media Statements

Report warns of serious system challenges on eve of World Health Day - Black Sash, 6 April 2011

Health rights are undermined by our overburdened health service, according to a joint report released in time for World Health Day on Thursday 7 April by the Black Sash.  The comprehensive report on public healthcare provision and health policy proposals, including those for a National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme, was compiled following seven provincial consultative workshops organised by the Black Sash, UCT’s Health Economics Unit and the Health-e News Service and its partners over the past year. 

Community representatives and health-affiliated organisations reported a consistent picture of a national health system in dire need of redress.  There are not enough clinics, doctors and nurses to meet patient demand and clinic hours are restricted – leading to high travel costs, long queues and patients turned away from service points.   Verbal abuse, discrimination, and the violation of patient rights especially in relation to confidentiality was widespread.  Shortages of medication at clinics is common and pain killers are routinely handed out instead.  A severe lack of ambulances, undermining emergency care, was reported.  There is widespread maladministration of patient records and referrals. 

Participants called for a central complaints system, and effective monitoring and evaluation of all levels of health services.  They noted that home based carers and community health workers play essential roles in providing basic health care and should be recognised and protected. They called for other arms of government to attend to environmental and social causes of illness. 

Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager Elroy Paulus says the Black Sash has held the provincial workshops as there has been very little public engagement on healthcare reform. “85% of our population depends on our public health care system. It is these citizens’ values that should be driving the decision making process, and their experiences that should inform system reform.”  The Black Sash understands government plans to revitalise primary health care but calls for more public information and consultation.

According to the Black Sash report, the overwhelming majority of participants supported the introduction of a tax funded National Health Insurance system on condition that it would be able to provide a substantially improved health care system which is accessible to everyone. Participants argued that sick people should be afforded the dignity of health care even if they cannot afford to pay for it.  They agreed that everyone who can contribute to the health system should do so, based on a proportion of their income.  They called for all people to have equitable access to health care.

Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager Ratula Beukman says “We are encouraged by the commitment to human rights that has been demonstrated by citizens throughout our consultations.  The Black Sash agrees with participants that healthcare is an essential component of social security and as such, is a basic human right.”

The next consultative workshops will take place in the Northern Cape next week and in the Free State in June 2011.

Click here to download the Synthesis Report on Seven Provincial Health Consultations

Click here to view the different provincial reports

For interview requests, please contact:

Elroy Paulus

Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager

Cell: 072-382 8175

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ratula Beukman

Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager

Cell: 072-174 3507

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.