Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: SUNDAY WORLD
Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: SUNDAY WORLD

THE majority of South Africa ’s doctors believe the country’s healthcare system does not have a bright future, but many are willing to help improve it, according to a survey of medical practitioners released at the weekend by health publication Medical Chronicle and independent health consultancy Lifechoice.

The first Annual Provider Medical Attitude Barometer Survey received more than 1,200 unique responses on a variety of topics and depicts the perceived state of healthcare in the country. It said attempts by the government and third-party role players to regulate the industry were tarnishing practitioners’ views on the future of the health sector.

Most practitioners (56%) who responded did not support government’s concept of National Health Insurance (NHI).

The results showed practitioners feel strongly that the government’s focus should be on fixing up state facilities that are largely ineffective.

Only 4% of respondents agreed with the view that the government should be focusing on the NHI instead of fixing up the state sector, while only 9% agreed that state facilities in their area provided an acceptable service.

Earlier this month, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said that collaboration with the private sector was vital for the success of the NHI. Dr Motsoaledi signed a "social compact" with the private sector at the time, which he described as a historic step towards closer collaboration between the government and private enterprises.

"Rebuilding confidence in the public health sector for the full, successful implementation of the NHI system is of utmost importance for our country," he said.

Last month, the Treasury said it expected to publish its discussion document on financing options for the NHI before February’s budget.

The survey showed only 12.4% of respondents strongly agreed or agreed with the statement that South African health had a bright future. Respondents were only slightly more optimistic about the future of their chosen discipline.

However, despite a negative view on the future of health, only 8% disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that they would always practise medicine in South Africa, with the majority indicating that they were likely to stay in the country. There was no age bias in this view, and most respondents indicated that they found their work rewarding and psychologically stimulating.

Medical schemes were seen in a negative light by practitioners, who indicated that they were unconvinced that the schemes had members’ interests at heart.

There were also strong views that managed care had been ineffectual in containing costs and that schemes were ineffectual in managing their non-healthcare costs.

Respondents indicated that legislative requirements and managed-care red tape undermined their ability to focus on patient care.

While most respondents said they were not well paid, 66% of specialists indicated that they thought general practitioners (GPs) were not well remunerated, while only 21% of GPs felt that specialists were not well remunerated.

With Tamar Kahn