Taxpayers will have to pay around R1.5 billion over the next five years to develop an integrated electronic health record system for government health. It will probably cost a further R1.5 billion to implement it.
Dr. Health Minister Joe Phaahla, in response to a written parliamentary question from the DA, indicated that his department has not yet determined what the implementation of the system will cost.
“It’s despite the fact that this system is a requirement of the National Health Insurance Bill that the ANC is trying to steamroll through parliament,” says Michele Clarke, the DA’s shadow minister for health.
Proper record keeping of patients is an essential element to ensure quality health care and the development and implementation of such a system will certainly be of help in the holistic treatment of patients and to reduce medicolegal claims due to medical negligence.
“However, the Department of Health’s management of data has always been problematic,” says Clarke. “During his reply, Minister Phaahla said that no forensic cases had been referred to the Health Industry Anti-Corruption Forum (HSACF) since it was established in 2018. Although it would be strange and alarming if true, the HSACF has had success dealing with fraudulent forensic claims, including the case of an Eastern Cape lawyer who was arrested on three counts of fraud worth more than R100 million.”
The HSACF is a stakeholder group of law enforcement including the Special Investigation Unit (SUE), civil society, health industry regulators, the private sector and the national department of health.
“Minister Phaahla’s response to the DA’s question indicates two things: either his department is unwilling or unable to comply with parliament’s oversight mechanisms and structures, or he does not know how to manage essential data and gain access to it. How do the department and provinces expect to deal with the sharp increase in forensic claims in the past few years if credible information cannot even be provided in response to a simple parliamentary question?”
Clarke says the department’s failure in this regard is a major indication of the chaos that will prevail if the ANC is successful in steamrolling through the unconstitutional bill. “The ANC has always made many empty promises. A few provinces’ health budgets are already overwhelmed by legal medical demands. The HSACF was launched with great fanfare, and yet the national department of health – a stakeholder – cannot obtain credible information, and apparently has not questioned the information obtained from provinces. How on earth will the NGV – the next so-called miracle cure – be any different?”
Clarke says that unless the government fixes the basics such as infrastructure, staff shortages, backlogs and consequence management, the NGV will never be successful. “It is being built on a foundation that has been systematically eroded by cadre deployment, corruption and incompetence and instead of tackling the problems, the department just wants to give it a new coat of paint.”
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