PRETORIA– Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi says while South Africa’s public healthcare system is distressed and facing hard times, the system is not on the brink of collapse.

As far as we know, this healthcare system is still able to provide treatment to the largest number of HIV positive people globally. Our (HIV treatment) programme is the biggest in the world at 4.2 million people. In the next 24 months, we are poised to initiate an additional two million people on treatment, Motsoaledi said during a briefing on the status of healthcare here Tuesday.

Speaking from the Government Communications (GCIS) headquarters here, the Minister said he was not aware of any scientific method used to measure the veracity of the claims made about the breakdown of the health system.

I am not here to challenge that because I do not know the yardstick that was used to arrive at a conclusion of collapse. Surely healthcare systems are measured on some form of scientific yardstick to arrive at any conclusion.

Motsoaledi said that the country’s public health system is still able to treat all 300,000 patients who suffer from Tuberculosis, noting that South Africa is the first country to get to scale in the use of TB diagnostic and early introduction of the latest medication for TB, and, as a result of the interventions, South Africa has seen a drop in number of people dying from TB, from 69,251 in 2009 to 33,063 in 2015.

The number of babies born HIV positive has also dropped from a total of 70,000 in 2004 to 4,500 currently.

The Minister said the public healthcare system is still able to take care of 1.06 million pregnant women out of 1.2 million pregnant women.

To make sure that we are adequately taking care of them, we have them registered on a system called MomConnect, through which we communicate with them every single week. Cumulatively, since August 2014, we had registered over two million pregnant women on this system,” he added.

Out of this number, 1,620 lodged complaints about the healthcare system. But in the same period, a total of 15,440 sent us messages of compliments. This is unsolicited information. We do not then think that a collapsing or collapsed system is able to do this.”

The Minister admitted that his department is very worried about extreme overcrowding in public hospitals and that the situation could have been much worse if we did not take proactive steps.

One of these steps was to decant patients away from the clinics and hospitals to take their medication at selected pick-up points. These are pick-up points selected by the patients themselves. We have 2.2 million people on this system called CCMDD (Central Chronic Medication Dispensing and Distribution). We are poised to load one million more people on this system during this financial year.

The Minister, however, said the country faced a big human resources problem. He said sub-Saharan Africa carried 80 per cent of all infectious diseases in the world but only had 3.0 per cent of the health human resources. We are not exempted from that. We are actually very badly affected. We have decided to enter the battle robustly, he said.