Mkhize hints at health care catch-up strategy to capitalise on COVID-19 infrastructure gains

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says the Department has devised an aggressive catch-up strategy to ensure that South Africa capitalizes on the infrastructure and public private partnership gains made during the COVID-19 surge in the fight against other non-communicable diseases.

Mkhize, who was addressing the Masoyise Health Programme seminar on Thursday, said studies have shown the potential impact of COVID-19 pandemic on HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria in low-income and middle-income countries.

One study found that deaths due to HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria over the next 5 years could rise by up to 10%, 20%, and 36%, respectively as a direct consequence of the advent of the pandemic.
Mkhize said the Department is concerned that HIV testing fell by nearly half and that TB testing and primary health care access by carers and children fell by between 9% and 25%.

“The Department of Health has devised an aggressive catch-up strategy to ensure that we recapture that spirit of health seeking behaviour and also capitalize on the infrastructure and public private partnership gains we made during the COVID-19 surge,” Mkhize said.

Thursday’s seminar focused on reprioritising TB, HIV and other NCDs in the mining sector.

“This is a very critical sector in our country which has a special history of respiratory diseases, particularly pneumoconiosis and tuberculosis. These programmes are designed to improve industry performance by targeting improvement of key indicators of these conditions. From the reports I have received, it is evident that much progress was made since the initiation of the programme,” Mkhize said.

“The industry now faces a unique challenge where there is possible interaction between lung damage caused by COVID-19 and the existing lung diseases in the industry. I would also assume that the industry TB, HIV and NCD programmes have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, similar to other programmes worldwide.”

Mkhize said the Department will study the recommendations emanating from the seminar so it can integrate and align in a cohesive response to the public health challenges that face us as a collective, striving towards the attainment of Universal Health Coverage.

“The key message here is that of partnership with government, labour movements, civil society and the community so that we can conquer over the scourge of HIV, TB, non-communicable diseases and COVID-19,” he said.