Is South Africa advancing towards National Health Insurance? The perspectives of general practitioners in one pilot site
Background. The launch of the National Health Insurance (NHI) White Paper in December 2015 heralded a new stage in South Africa’s advancement towards universal health coverage. The ‘contracting in’ of private sector general practitioners (GPs), though only one component of the overall reformed system, is nevertheless crucial to address staff shortages and capacity, and also to realise the broader vision of a single unified, integrated system.
Objective. To report on the views and experiences of GP providers tasked with implementing the reforms at one pilot site, Tshwane District in Gauteng Province, providing an insight into the practical challenges the NHI scheme faces in implementation.
Methods. The study was qualitative in nature, using a combination of convenience and purposeful sampling to recruit participants. A thematic analysis of the data was conducted using Nvivo 10 software.
Results. The overall experiences of the GPs exposed a number of problems with the pilot. These included frustration with lack of appropriate infrastructure and equipment in NHI facilities, difficulties integrating into the facilities and lack of professional autonomy, as well as unhappiness with contracting arrangements. Despite strong support for the idea of NHI, there was general scepticism that private doctors would embrace the scheme on the scale required.
Conclusion. The study suggests that the current pilots are still a long way from the vision of a single, integrated health system. While it may be argued that the pilots are not themselves the completed NHI, the findings suggest that it will take much longer to establish than the timeline envisaged by government.
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