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

IN A break with the Department of Health’s historically tense relationship with the private sector, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has entered into a "social compact" with the CEOs of leading healthcare companies.

He has committed to regular meetings with the CEOs, who have in turn pledged money for a Public Health Enhancement Fund to tackle the skills shortages facing the healthcare sector, and improve the management of HIV and tuberculosis.

A total of R40m has been promised for the first year from 23 companies representing drug manufacturers, diagnostics companies, private hospitals, pharmacies, medical scheme administrators, distributors and pharmacy benefit managers.

Such collaboration was vital for the success of the government’s ambitions for introducing National Health Insurance (NHI), the minister said on announcing the move this week.

"There are a hundred million things you can do to change South Africa for the better. But trying to be everywhere at the same time doesn’t work. Many CEOs run companies in areas I wouldn’t even dream of. That’s why we focused on addressing issues that are in everyone’s interest, like the importance of fighting HIV and AIDS…. That needs no debate," he said.

Aspen Pharmacare’s head of strategic trade Stavros Nicolaou, who with Discovery Holding’s executive director Ayanda Nstaluba co-chairs the initiative, said working on projects with tangible outcomes would build trust between the private and public sectors.

The 23 companies include leading representatives from the pharmaceutical, hospital, pharmacy and medical scheme administration industries. The companies are: Abbott Laboratories, Alcon Labs, Aspen Pharmacare Holdings, Bausch & Lomb, Clicks Holdings, Clinix Health Group, Discovery Holdings, Dischem, Galderma, Roche, Joint Medical Holdings, Life Healthcare, Litha Healthcare, Medi-Clinic, Mediscor, Medscheme, Netcare, Novo Nordisk, United Pharmaceutical Distributors and Servier Laboratories.

Notable by their absence are JSE-listed pharmaceutical manufacturers Adcock Ingram and Cipla Medpro. Neither company was immediately available for comment.

Dr Ntsaluba said the social compact would give the health minister an opportunity to openly exchange ideas with company CEOs, who had historically interacted with him only on issues specific to their industries. "There’s always been a bit of suspicion between the public and private sector. We need to invest in bridging those divides," he said.

The door remained open to other companies that wished to join, he said.

Thursday’s announcement follows Tuesday’s launch of the Academy for Leadership and Management in Health Care, which is expected to improve the skills of hospital managers.

With additional reporting by Khulekani Magubane.