Introduction to the Helen Suzman Foundation Health Project
The mission of the Helen Suzman Foundation is to defend the values that underpin our liberal constitutional democracy and to promote respect for human rights. The Foundation works from the premise that health provision represents one of South Africa’s key human rights issues. In relation to health, Section 27 of the Constitution states that “Everyone has the right to have access to health care services, including reproductive health care; […and that] no one may be refused emergency medical treatment”. As affirmed by Former Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson in the Soobramoney case, as long as many citizens do not have access to socioeconomic rights such as health care, the commitment of the Constitution “to transform our society into one in which there will be human dignity, freedom and equality … will have a hollow ring”.
The Helen Suzman Foundation initially broadened its scope of work by entering the health debate in 2009, when it held a Roundtable entitled “Strategic Health Reform” as a consequence of the launch of the ANC’s policy document on National Health Insurance (NHI). Since then, the question of strategic reform of the health system has featured prominently on the public agenda.
In light of such developments, and following a funding grant from HSBC, the Foundation has recently initiated the HSF Health Project. Informing the core of the project is the question: Does the health care system, as embodied by the public and private sector, enable citizens to realise their right of access to health care? The Helen Suzman Foundation is of the view that health care constitutes part of the social compact. Thus when discussing health reforms everyone who is affected should have the right to participate in the process. In this regard, the aim of our project is to raise awareness, to educate and to engage in debate around health reform issues, with a key focus being the right to access health care in South Africa.