Dr Kenneth Jacobs was elected chairperson of the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Health last month. Biénne Huisman chatted to Jacobs about National Health Insurance, the role of Parliament, working with the Stormers rugby team, and his own background and journey to serving as chair of such an important parliamentary committee.
Last night President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that Dr Zweli Mkhize had resigned as South Africa’s Minister of Health after eight weeks on special leave. Although Mkhize will primarily be remembered for the Digital Vibes scandal that caused his downfall, a lot more happened over the last two years. Spotlight editor Marcus Low asks what we can learn from Mkhize’s time as health minister and tries to make sense of some of the contradictions.
While the Digital Vibes scandal has no doubt presented President Cyril Ramaphosa with a massive headache, it has also presented him with an opportunity. In appointing a new Minister of Health, he can set South Africa’s COVID-19 response on a sounder footing. We should soon know whether this is an opportunity he is ready to take, writes Spotlight editor Marcus Low.
Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize this week provided an update on investigations into a multimillion-rand NHI communications contract mired in controversy. That same morning, MPs in Parliament were again reminded of how critical an independent National Health Insurance Board will be. One organisation proposed an additional NHI corruption-fighting unit. Alicestine October has the latest from in and outside of Parliament.
When South Africa’s rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine was put on hold in early February, a scramble ensued to ensure healthcare workers could be protected. Chris Bateman spoke to Professor Glenda Gray about the behind-the-scenes negotiations that helped secure 500 000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – almost all of which have now been used in the Sisonke study.
Within the next month or so we will be switching gears from the comparatively small-scale trial run of Sisonke to a full-on mass vaccination programme. As with the onset of a new wave of infections, this presents a dramatic shift in the pandemic and our response to it – although in this case, the shift is finally a good thing, writes Spotlight editor Marcus Low.
South Africa is likely headed for a third wave of COVID-19 infections, experts warn. With no windfall of vaccines in sight, many people at high risk of COVID-19 will remain unvaccinated. Now some doctors and medical ethicists are asking: Is a safe vaccine that could possibly protect them better than nothing?
Some foreign nationals in South Africa, their community leaders, human rights lawyers and activists are concerned that their health needs are falling through the cracks. This was compounded during lockdown with some foreign nationals claiming they were refused healthcare and others now concerned they will be excluded from the vaccine rollout. Luvuyo Mehlwana reports.
On 17 February Sr Milanie Bennett administered the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to President Cyril Ramaphosa. Bienne Huisman tracked her down to learn more about her long journey to this historical moment.
Provinces manage the day-to-day running of the public healthcare system in South Africa and provinces will be responsible for the massive logistical effort of getting COVID-19 vaccines from fridges and depots into people’s arms. Elri Voigt has been keeping track of the nine provinces’ plans.