LETTER: Soviet-style planning

LETTER: Soviet-style planning AUGUST 04 2014, 11:45


THE article, "Plans to regulate where doctors work put on ice" (July 30) refers. The Department of Health must be applauded "(for asking) the president’s office to withdraw the promulgation … (of) provisions requiring all health establishments — from GPs’ offices to private hospitals — to obtain a certificate of need from the department by April 2016".

This legislation would have made it illegal for public and private-sector facilities to build, establish, modify or acquire a health establishment or health agency without a certificate of need. It would have also been required by any health establishment or health agency seeking to increase the number of beds or to acquire any new technology. Existing health establishments and health agencies would have been obliged also to have a certificate of need to continue to operate.

Its intended purpose purports to be control of the kind of services that may be offered in any particular area.

In other words, it is an attempt to match health services offered with the needs of the population on a geographical basis, something that is neither feasible nor economically justifiable. It is most regrettable, then, that the "shelving" of this draconian piece of legislation appears to be only temporary. As deputy director-general for regulation and compliance Anban Pillay said, "One needs to give parties sufficient time to engage with the regulations."

Because of the time and expense involved in obtaining a certificate of need for medical personnel and facilities, and other long, complicated bureaucratic procedures that delay the introduction of new medical technologies, this legislation stifles competition and increases the cost of healthcare. The only way these costs can be recovered is from patients.

Certificates of need are a Soviet-style form of social engineering that have no place in a democratic state. Dictating to people where they may or may not work harks back to apartheid-style social planning and is not welcome after so many South Africans had to fight so hard for their freedoms.

Jasson Urbach

Director, Health Policy Unit, Free Market Foundation

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