National Health Insurance (NHI) is seen as the solution to all health system ills, to the detriment of other policies, a public health expert said on Wednesday.
"To some extent... NHI has become almost like a panacea to solve all the problems in the health system," Dr Duane Blaauw told a debate on the ANC's policy discussion documents at the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg.
The ANC's policy discussion document on health focused mainly on NHI, he said. All other health policy processes had been put on hold as a result.
The NHI was seen as able to decrease the bad things about private sector healthcare, to strengthen primary healthcare and address human resource issues, Blaauw said.
The other issues in the document were minor, such as HIV notification and the creation of a state-owned pharmaceutical entity.
However, key issues were not included in the ANC document.
"The NHI debate has created the idea that the main problem with the health system is the private sector," Blaauw said.
The document does not examine the weaknesses of the current public health system or look at the various unsuccessful interventions that had been made over the last 18 years to try to fix it.
It made little mention of the lack of doctors and nurses.
"There is nothing really about how we try and create dedicated patient-oriented doctors and nurses," he said.
National Planning Commission member Hoosen Coovadia defended the proposed NHI, saying health was a public good.
It had worked in Brazil, China and some Scandinavian countries, and so should work in South Africa, he said.
The ANC holds a policy conference every five years before an elective conference, with the next one in Mangaung in December.
ANC branch members and alliance representatives debate policy, and any policy changes decided at the policy conference need to be ratified by the elective conference.
The next policy conference will be held in Midrand next month.