The National Health Insurance (NHI), for which membership will be compulsory, is a funding scheme that aims to address healthcare inequity in South Africa. The scheme will do this by creating a fund that the government will use to buy healthcare services at set fees from accredited public and private health providers. The NHI Bill was passed in the National Assembly in June 2023. It has to go to the National Council of Provinces for approval.
South Africa is currently producing more doctors than ever, yet doctor shortages persist in public sector hospitals and clinics, particularly in rural areas.
Two things drive this dilemma. The first is that the government often doesn’t have enough money to employ more doctors. The second is that medical graduates don’t want to work in rural areas in the long term, meaning that rural hospitals struggle to attract and retain doctors even when they have the money.
One way of fixing shortages in rural areas is to admit more people from rural towns into medical school. This is because people from far-flung areas are more likely to return to practise there than those who come from cities.