Universities partner with government to address South Africa’s healthcare challenges

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The Universities Consortium and the Department of Health will launch the Universal Health Care project on June 6, which will test contracting mechanisms.

The National Department of Health (NDOH) through a closed bid invited universities with health sciences faculties to bid on testing contracting mechanisms in the public healthcare sector.

The tender invited universities to support National Health Insurance (NIH) reforms by providing administrative and technical support and healthcare services through contracting healthcare professionals. The project runs over three years in all nine provinces.  

In response to this tender, six universities agreed to collaborate and formed the Universities Consortium. The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Wits) led the bid response. Universities Consortium partners include: a

  • University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (project lead)
  • Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University
  • University of Fort Hare
  • University of Pretoria
  • Nelson Mandela University
  • University of the Free State

The Wits Health Consortium (WHC), contracted by the University of the Witwatersrand as project managers, will provide financial and administrative support for the roll-out of the project.

“We are excited about this venture, which will contribute to a cultural change in universities and to societal reform,” says Dan Mosia who leads the Project Management Unit in the Wits Health Consortium.

The potential for collaborative support, learning and cross-pollination within the Consortium is considerable. Economies of scale concerning ideas, concept, planning and implementation are all possible and the strength of the operating model is enhanced through a university consortium approach to planning and implementation. 

The framework ensures a level of independence of partners within the consortium and enables the innovation and responsiveness critical to a partner university meeting the objectives locally in each district.

The operating model of the Universities Consortium ensures the placement of health professionals in Academic Primary Care Complexes where the consortium is a strategic partner for the purchasing of services. To align with the objectives of the National Health Insurance Bill 2018, the model envisages the Academic Primary Care Complex as a contracting unit to promote sustainable, equitable, appropriate, efficient and effective public funding for the purchasing of healthcare services.

The use of health care professionals will be optimised to meet demand. Contracting options will provide for engagement on public facilities (centering on ideal clinics) and private providers. The model balances the need for standardisation where necessary (e.g., information management) to customization according to the local context.

Overall the model will improve service (including the use of training and an academic platform to do so), as well as generate the research and data to inform the rollout of a NHI. The model is to be supported by a patient management system, scheduling, monitoring and practice administration capability. Universities Consortium have collective experience in managing such systems and processes effectively and efficiently.