SA health professionals body preparing legal challenge against NHI

The SAHPC said its insights and objections against the NHI were ignored. File Picture: Science Photo Library via AFP

The SAHPC said its insights and objections against the NHI were ignored. File Picture: Science Photo Library via AFP

Published May 17, 2024


The South African Health Professionals Collaboration (SAHPC) has joined the chorus of vocal organisations preparing legal challenges against the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill that was signed into law this week.

The SAHPC represents nine healthcare practitioners’ associations around the country, with a collective membership of over 25,000 private and public workers in the medical and dental fields.

The organisation said it was extremely disappointed and concerned following the signing of the NHI Bill into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday, May 15.

The SAHPC said its input in the NHI parliamentary process, as well as its many separate submissions and objections to the NHI were ignored, as was its plea to Ramaphosa to refer the Bill back to Parliament. The medical body argued that the Bill was unconstitutional and not in the best interests of patients and citizens.

Its members have made submissions at every stage of the legislative process, dating back to the release of the green paper in 2011, it said.

“SAHPC members, representing a diverse array of healthcare specialities, have consistently advocated for policies that prioritise the wellbeing of patients and ensure the sustainability of the country’s healthcare system. Their disappointment stems not only from the disregard for their expertise, but also from the potential consequences the unworkable bill may inflict on the healthcare landscape,” the SAPHC said in a statement.

ALSO READ: Could a tax increase be on the cards for SA consumers to fund the NHI?

SAPHC spokesperson Dr Simon Strachan said it was disheartening to see their efforts to forge a more workable and patient-centric healthcare system being ignored.

“Where we are now is unprecedented, and we believe that the NHI, in its current form will reverse, rather than progress, equitable, quality healthcare in South Africa,” Strachan said.

“We have no doubt that the NHI Bill will be challenged in the courts, and we are currently exploring all our options in this regard.

“As healthcare practitioners, our primary concern is the wellbeing of our patients. As experts in our field, we believe the President has an obligation to ensure that the NHI improves, rather than limits overall healthcare for every citizen. He has failed to do this.”

Although the NHI Bill has been lauded by some political organisations as well as the United Nations (UN), it is facing legal challenges on many fronts.

Legal action is currently being planned by Solidarity as well as the South African Medical Association (SAMA), AfriForum and the Democratic Alliance (DA), among others.

SAMA CEO Dr Mzulungile Nodikida said that although the intention behind the bill to provide universal healthcare was commendable, the implementation strategy lacked the necessary depth and practicality required to achieve meaningful and sustainable change.

“South Africa’s healthcare system is not ready for the NHI as it is currently articulated in the bill because the funding mechanism is flawed in its heavy reliance on general tax revenue, payroll tax, surcharges on personal income, and in particular, the potential financial hardships for poor and middle-class citizens due to the country's economic challenges,” Nodikida said.