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Dancing together to NHI together

COVID-19: Let’s dance together if we are to NHI together

Staff Writer

Johannesburg December 2020. Globally missions; institutions and businesses are being repurposed to stay relevant. The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing us to re-examine; purpose; and repurpose our existential values as a health community. It is the dawn of a different era- painful as it may. As has been quoted quite often by many, an author, Winston Churchill once said “never let a good crisis go to waste”.

As human beings we have an innate urge to resort to our normal behaviours in times of crisis and uncertainty. After all, normal is familiar, and normal is comfortable. The reality is that, our current definition of normal needs to be scrutinised. What exactly are we yearning to get back to?

Given the urgency to transform health in South Africa to benefit citizens, members of this health compact: private, public and civil society sectors; are being invited to the dance floor of this era under construction. We need to initiate an interaction that is – and has an intrusive impact on our normal. To not only define the process of its creation, but articulate the end product thereof. How do we all work intentionally to create a future that appeals to the greater good? That future is universal health coverage for South Africa.

  1. Let’s build a solid foundation of universal health coverage by working together. We are doing it now because we know the threat COVID-19 presents for our health and economy. This compact is being tested and stretched for its resilience and relevance within a society as diverse as ours.
  2. Let’s develop a health is an investment mind-set. And as such this investment should be structured in a way that pays dividends to its citizens, and indeed withstand an onslaught like this epidemic. In turn the investment in health should yield real economic returns. COVID-19 – albeit unwelcome opens an opportunity for us to rekindle our ailing economy and to reconnect with our social solidarity values. Most of the dividends may not be paid to us, they will benefit our grandchildren in years to come; or the most vulnerable who we may not know about.
  3. Patriotism cannot be forced upon, but an opportunity is presenting itself so let’s grab it. We know we will emerge from this the scourge through intentional collaboration for the greater good of South Africa. We are seeing non-traditional partnerships forming to increase access to quality and reliable testing; share evidence of clinical protocols that work, joint plan for increasing hospitals capacity; deliberate on availability of frontline human resources both in numbers and competence; and ensure support by a joint sustenance of agile medicine and equipment supply chains. In doing so we are upholding foundational principles of nation building, with a clear national goal. We ought to continue as we rebuild our economy.
  4. Every individual is being invited. The role of communities and their leaders, both rich and poor in sustaining a response is being tested. Lockdown rules, while expedient and necessary, show fissures in passing tests of universality of rules. The cries from suburbia to Strava and walk dogs don’t have the same decibel as the cries for survival of a waitress who does not even have UIF. How do the two converge with an understanding of their role in this social compact?
  5. Amidst societal proliferations of empathy and sympathy, mayhems of ignorance and rumouring, we have also seen how universal health coverage is as difficult as enforcing universal lockdown. This shows that as we seek to resuscitate our economy, no one size will fit all, and yet we should move in unison to economic principles of nation building and a sense of patriotism.

Not insurmountable, a successful tango stems from the appreciation of a social impact. Dancing to a tune whose chorus is social welfare and the public good. And yes, we will step on each other’s toes at the beginning of the tango, and fall probably as we dance to a new rhythm. But we will awake to define a new normal in every sphere of health care. We have an opportunity to think differently about the mantra we want to pass on.