Trade union involvement in health care in South Africa

The Food and Canning Workers Union in Western Cape, South Africa, established a medical benefit fund to provide members with limited access to services provided by private practitioners. The fund, which is self financing and administered by a joint management-workers committee, was reasonably successful in providing a basic level of health benefits, but with relatively high administrative costs. Over time private practitioners were less willing to accept the payment levels provided by the fund, making the fund turn to direct provision. The fund established a clinic in 1981 which offers direct services to its members and to disadvantaged members of the community. Costs are lower then comparative services in the private sector and the quality and range of services are better, reflected in shorter waiting times, the improved treatment of chronic illness, intervention in work related disease and the initiation of health programmes. The scheme has not been more widely replicated, mainly because of weaknesses in trade union structures in other sectors and countries.
Source: Robinson & White, 1997


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