As aspects of the government vaccine rollout program immerge, the CEO of medical scheme Profmed Craig Comrie expressed concerns with snail pace and opaqueness of government’s vaccination rollout programme, which he believes stems from the South African government’s lack of engagement with the broader healthcare industry.
“What is frustrating for us,” said Comrie. “Is that government has not been upfront or transparent enough when it comes to the rollout. It is extremely difficult for us to be a part of the solution when the only plan we have site of is the presumptuous one shared with the nation in January. Where is the evidence of a well-researched plan and document, it seems as if South Africans have to only accept the scant details shared in speeches from an exclusive small group involved in the “consultation process” that is guiding a plan. This group is robbed of true representation of medical schemes who’s voice is diluted by one of the large medical schemes to the detriment of the rest of the scheme industry who have serious reservations about the direction government is taking”
Although Profmed, and many schemes like it, have already started making their own plans in terms of the rollout of vaccinations within their own membership bases, Comrie said it is critical that the healthcare industry at large is brought into the equation as soon as possible.
“Government has only given us a trickle of information, but we need to know the timing of when vaccines are coming, what they cost, and how the private and public facilities can speed up distribution of these vaccines.”
Comrie believes if the government was only more transparent on the challenges of negotiating and timing of the delivery of vaccines, then the private sector could have assisted and even shared accountability for the process. “The rollout plan should be a living document released to all role players in the industry and all South Africans. How can we participate if we don’t even have sight of the plan in its current iteration? We need to see it, flaws, and how we can all contribute to overcoming any problems that arise. It is true that no one could have anticipated the mutations of the virus and the fact that Astra Zeneca vaccines would not be effective however it seems that since that occurred the initial plan has had to change and then transparency seemed to also disappear.”
Comrie said that the National Command Council would have us believe that it is in fact engaging with the medical scheme industry through the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC), but he said this is a misrepresentation of the truth. “In reality, the MAC features but one industry major player who has no mandate to represent the industry.”
Comrie said that Profmed and numerous other medical schemes have already attempted to provide alternative solutions to the process. “The problem remains that there are so few people behind those closed doors, there is effectively no widespread consultation. The fact is that the plan seems to already have been predetermined and is going to proceed regardless of the requests for broader engagement and transparency.
Comrie is of the opinion that the vaccination rollout is of critical importance to the success of this nation. As a physical and economic threat to the nation, and a complex initiative the likes of which has never been seen, Comrie said that he is in no way expecting the rollout to be perfect but at the very least transparent.
“All we want is a view of those imperfections and an opportunity contribute towards improving the plan. South Africa deserves all the help it can get,” concluded Comrie.