Isn’t it strange how much easier it is for people to believe in doom and gloom than in positive steps in the right direction? There have been many times in my personal and professional life that I have seen people transformed when they start to look at the world through new eyes.
This past week, at the Parliamentary portfolio Committee on Health, I was reminded again how our health system is being transformed and that we need to see it through new eyes.
I would be the first to agree that there are still huge obstacles to be overcome, but, as Confucius said: “The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones”.
So what are those “mountains”?
The four outputs required from the health sector in terms of the NSDA 2010-2014 are:
- Increased Life Expectancy;
- Reduction in Maternal and Child Mortality Rates;
- Combating HIV and AIDS and decreasing the burden of diseases from Tuberculosis; and
- Strengthening Health System Effectiveness.
So what are those “small stones”?
In terms of life expectancy, the targets posted for 2014 had all been exceed by 2011, with average life expectancy up from 56.5 years to 60 years. The under-five mortality rate shows improvement too, with 42 deaths per 1000 live births in 2011, compared to 56 in 2009.
In terms of health planning and systems enablement, ten pilot sites for NHI were identified and publicly launched. KZN identified an additional NHI pilot site. The NHI Conditional Grant Framework was approved by National Treasury which means that additional NHI pilot sites will be launched.
In terms of HIV & AIDS, turberculosis and maternal, child and women’s health, a total of 617,147 new patients were put on Antiretroviral Treatment in 2011/12, compared to 418,677 in 2010/11. An encouraging 9,6 million South Africans accepted HIV Testing in 2011/12 which means that 20,2 million people have undergone HIV Testing since the launch of the HCT campaign in April 2010. A total of 6,353,000 female condoms were distributed, which exceeded the target of 6million.
In terms of improving child health, a national immunisation coverage rate (under 1 year) of 95,2% was achieved, against a target of 95%.
When it comes to HIV and Aids testing, 4% of babies tested PCR positive 6 weeks after birth (out of all babies tested), which reflects very good performance when compared to the target of 7,5%. A Medical Research Council PMTCT survey reflected a transmission rate of 3,5%.
The target of 60% of mothers and babies receiving post natal care within six days of delivery was almost achieved, with 56,9% of mothers and 57,8% babies receiving care.
In terms of primary health care services (PHC) a PHC utilisation rate of 2,5 visits per person was achieved in 2011/12, against a target of 2,6 visits per person. Vitamin A supplementation coverage rate among children aged 12-59 months was 43%, which exceeded the target of 40%. A total of 337 ward-based PHC Teams were established, which way exceeded the target of 54 teams.
As you can see, that mountain is getting smaller. The work is beginning to pay off, and I am encouraged.