The South African Communist Party (SACP) has called on the government to “assert decisive control” over private hospitals to win the battle against coronavirus (COVID-19).
In a statement on Monday, the SACP said the private health sector is “aloof” from health being a constitutional right rather than a commodity to profit from.
It said, “In order to win the war against the COVID-19 pandemic and protect the majority of our people, the SACP is therefore calling upon government to assert decisive public control of private hospitals and other private health care facilities as required by the circumstances.”
‘No payment for COVID-19 healthcare
The Party added, “The private hospital sector has over 40,000 beds, a number of which are critical and intensive care unit beds.
“These facilities, in this time of war against the deadly disease, cannot be reserved for the paying patients, but should be available to all people who are affected and need treatment for COVID-19.
“Private health care providers must provide COVID-19 healthcare without demanding payment.”
The SACP nevertheless welcomed the escalation of measures President Cyril Ramaphosa announced, including a 21-day nationwide lockdown.
Private hospitals already cooperating – Mkhize
The Party is a key ally of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Its General Secretary, Dr Blade Nzimande, serves as Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology.
At a media briefing on Tuesday, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize seemingly contradicted the SACP’s assertions and said private hospitals are already cooperating with the government.
He said, “We have the private sector willing to share their beds and we are already working with them to look at what can be done. When a situation like this arises, we will basically utilise whatever facilities available, public or private.
“Those companies that have offered their facilities in private hospitals, we appreciate that, but I must say that the large numbers of those who are in private hospitals have offered willingness to assist. In any case, under a situation like this, no one can refuse to work with the government.”
Mkhize also announced that as of Monday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa stood at 554.
He said this figure may rise in the course of the next one week, but is expected to start flattening within a “couple of weeks” because of the lockdown and other public health measures.