OPEN LETTER TO:
The CEOs of private hospital groups including Netcare, Life Healthcare and MediClinic
The CEOs of medical schemes including Discovery Health, Bonitas and Momentum Health
The CEOs of pharmaceutical companies and the producers of medical equipment and supplies
Leaders across corporate South Africa
24 March 2020
Dear private sector,
South Africa is facing an unprecedented health emergency. All evidence suggests that we have a very short time to take serious action to prepare our health system for a surge in people needing to be tested and treated for COVID-19.
South Africa’s health system, like the country, is divided and inequitable. We cannot allow the inequities in our system to determine the response to COVID-19.
While we have been told that government and the private sector are engaging on a whole health system response to COVID-19, the public does not know the details of these engagements. In some countries, the private sector is making huge profits from providing services to governments during this pandemic. We cannot allow this to be the case in South Africa.
Section 8 of the Constitution recognises that state and non-state actors have a role to play in the protection and the realisation of rights. In 2001, the Treatment Action Campaign had to litigate against pharmaceutical companies to drop the price of medicines to treat HIV. We do not have the time to pursue this course now.
Experts have been clear that we will need real investment and commitment to sharing resources from the private sector in responding to COVID-19. We will need the production and procurement of personal protective equipment. We will need the procurement of oxygen and medication. We will need ventilators and the people who can operate them. We will need hospital beds. We will need funding. We will need all of this urgently.
In short, the state will not be able to meet every foreseeable urgent need that may arise, particularly among vulnerable groups, during this period – it needs your active support and help.
Beyond the health-related private sector, the country will need further support. We will need secure access to food. We will need hygiene and cleaning products. We will need hotels, schools and conference centres for quarantine. We will need employers who are flexible with and support their employees.
We call on the private sector in South Africa to do everything possible to assist government in preparing our health system for what is about to hit it. Gift of the Givers has set an excellent example. Reports are emerging of private sector engagement that looks promising. We need you, as corporate citizens, to step up in the interests of the country, of your colleagues, your friends and your families. Now is not the time for profits.
Show us what you can do, corporate South Africa.
Treatment Action Campaign
Rural Health Advocacy Project
People’s Health Movement