'Public healthcare should be for all'

Getrude Makhafola

Getrude Makhafola

Kgosi Letlape, who resigned as chairman of the South African Medical Association on Friday after the board passed a motion of no confidence in him, has said his colleagues never supported his views on good healthcare for all.

"This is about the haves and the have nots," he said yesterday.

Letlape, South Africa's first black ophthalmologist, had been chairman of the association for eight years.

"Knives were drawn when I cancelled my medical aid in October last year. I did that because I believed that by accessing private healthcare I would be enabling the government's under-funding of the health system."

He believes the government should get out of private healthcare and spend more on public healthcare.

"The government has no business in the private healthcare system, that is why there is such a discrepancy in the overall health system," he said.

Letlape wants the state to spend at least 8percent of GDP on healthcare.

The crumbling public healthcare system will never improve as long as it was targeted only at the poor, he added.

Letlape said his board "got jittery" when political parties started demanding healthcare for all.

"I was told that specialists were threatening to leave the organisation to form their own because I held these views and remained on the board. Because of that I chose to step down," he said.

An active HIV-Aids campaigner, Letlape was instrumental in launching the association's Tshepang Aids treatment project in 2002.

The association announced that its vice-chairman Denise White would assume the chairmanship until the next election, which is scheduled for August.