Lighting a fire under the DA
It seems that COPE is doing great things for the DA. Now that their mantle of Official Opposition is under threat, they're finally cleaning house and doing the things that they should have done a decade ago.
My biggest gripe with the DA has been their focus - most acutely under Tony Leon - of sniping at the heels of the ANC at every turn, whilst at the same time offering a bare cupboard of alternative policy proposals. Since COPE has entered the arena, the DA has relaunched the party image, refocused their slogans and proposals, and is finally communicating policy directly to the electorate.
The latest has been their healthcare policies, which they released today:
International experience showed the most effective health care delivery model to be a partnership between the state and private sector, DA spokesperson Mike Waters told a media briefing to launch the party's health policy document.
Under a DA government, a first priority would be to open up a tender process for managing those hospitals not delivering according to required standards.
This tender process would be open to any group of individuals in the public or the private sector able to meet the requirements, including a proven track record in hospital management.
Anyone awarded a tender to manage a public hospital would be funded by the state on a per-patient basis for providing health care, and rigorous performance criteria would be applied to ensure quality.
This would go hand in hand with a more decentralised model of health care administration, which would give hospital managers the powers they currently lacked to manage their hospitals effectively, he said.
Two key responsibilities for the state in terms of the DA's plans would be ensuring the availability of medicines and a supply of enough doctors and nurses to meet demands.
The DA proposed that the state involve pharmacies in a more grass-roots system for distributing medicines, so that patients at state hospitals were able to collect their medicines directly from their local pharmacy rather than waiting days or hours in a queue at a state hospital.
Waters said the critical shortage of medical professionals should be confronted head-on with a dynamic campaign to both increase the number of doctors and nurses available to the health system and make conditions attractive enough to ensure they stayed.
Among other things, the DA proposed a system whereby doctors in the private sector conducted a certain number of hours of pro bono work in the public sector every year, as some lawyers were currently required to do.
"We also propose a SADC [Southern African Development Community] health workers' protocol, to allow for the ethical recruitment of health staff from neighbouring countries, an international recruitment drive, and the classification of health worker skills as scarce skills to increase the number of foreign-qualified doctors and nurses we are able to employ."