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SSC: Namibian health system inefficient

Mon, 31 March 2014 04:34
by Timoteus Shihepo

Social Security Commission of Namibia (SSC) chief executive officer (CEO), Kenandei Tjivikua says the current Namibian health system does not have the capacity to offer quality services and can thus not be classified as efficient.
At present, a limited number of Namibians have access to quality private healthcare, because they cannot afford to pay for the services through medical insurance whilst the majority has to make do with public facilities, which are often stretched to capacity due to high demand.
Tjivikua says, therefore, his organisation aims to address the current disparities in the country’s health system through the Social Security Act of 1994 (Act No. 34 of 1994), which mandates the SSC to establish a National Medical Benefit Fund (NMBF), to provide payment of medical benefits to employees.
“Another hindrance to quality healthcare for the majority is physical access, as often, the facilities are far from where people reside, especially in the rural areas, compounded by the vastness of this country. Given the above scenario, the work of this committee is to develop policies and guidelines that would result in the majority of Namibians having access to quality care at affordable costs and on demand,” he asserts.
The Villager recently ran a story on the state of health system in Namibia where it was revealed that Namibia inherited a healthcare system, which was once highly fragmented and biased towards curative care while being inefficient and inadequate, thus putting the previously-disadvantaged at the bitter end of the stick at independence.
A Fund to curb this problem, The Villager understood, would grant over 85% of the population currently not covered, affordable health services.
It would also create a direct competitor for the medical aid funds whose premiums are suggested to be as much as 15% of the total income of low-income workers, even for the lowest rates.
The goal of Universal Health Coverage, Tjivikua says, is to ensure everyone obtains the health services they need without suffering financial hardships when paying for them.
This, he notes, would require a strong, efficient and well-run health system, for financing health services, accessing essential medicines and technologies and sufficient capacity of well-trained, motivated health workers.
Having been classified as an upper middle-income country, Namibia no longer receives as much external funding as in the past.
The situation has created considerable concern over the sustainability of the Namibian HIV/Aids response, which has been credited with saving over 35 000 Namibian lives, averting over 70 000 HIV infections and ensuring over 50 000 children are not orphaned.
 Currently, only 51% of the formally employed are insured, which equates to 16-18% of the population. This, yet only about 15-16% of the population is covered by medical aid schemes and less than half the formal sector workforce has medical scheme coverage.
“Although Namibia already has significant achievements on Universal Health Coverage, in terms of public health services, albeit with questionable quality, the greater challenge remains how to improve its status,” Tjivikua explains.
Namibia has four open funds; the Namibia Health Plan (NHP), Namibia Medical Care (NMC), NAMMED Medical Aid Fund and Renaissance Health Medical Aid Fund, which cater for the 80% black medical aid membership.
As such, the Namibian Association of Medical Aid Funds (Namaf) has confirmed that black Namibians make up the majority in private medical aid funds but are not equally respected in management control.
 With the NMBF being introduced, the previously-disadvantaged communities could, through a carefully formulated legislation, gain access to the financial benefits offered by this sector through administrative strategies.