Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez operates on Aaron James in the first whole-eye and partial face transplant, at NYU Langone Health in New York

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana announced a R848 billion investment in healthcare over the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) and earmarked at least R1 billion towards the National Health Insurance (NHI).

Godongwana announced the allocation of funds on Wednesday during the 2024 Budget Speech. He shared that these allocations include R11.6 billion for the 2023 wage agreement, R27.3 billion for infrastructure, and R1.4 billion for the NHI.

"The allocation for the NHI is a demonstration of the government's commitment to this policy. There remain a range of system-strengthening activities, that are key enablers of an improved public health care system, that must be undertaken," the minister said, SA News reported.

He explained that the funds will be utilized to perform several activities including building a national health information system and digital patient records, upgrading health facilities, granting semi-autonomous status for central (and potentially other) hospitals and developing reference prices.

National Treasury pointed out that the healthcare budget in South Africa is growing slower compared to the inflation.

"The function will prioritize greater efficiency, better management of commuted overtime and intensified promotion of preventative care. Spending reviews in the sector have led to some savings in vaccine and antiretroviral tenders," the Treasury said.

It explained that the healthcare sector is gradually recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in antiretroviral treatment and tuberculosis screening and treatment.

"The Department of Health and its provincial counterparts will prioritize building tertiary services like oncology through earmarked funds in the national tertiary services grant in provinces with inadequate services," it added. "This grant grows by 8.8% in 2024/25 as funding is shifted into it from the oncology portion of the national health insurance conditional grant."

Aside from the healthcare sector, the minister said that the education sector will be receiving R25.7 billion. He noted that the government can protect the funds of critical programs such as the school nutrition program, which provides food to almost 20,000 children across the country.

"The early childhood development grant is allocated R1.6 billion rising to R2 billion over the medium term," he added.

Earlier this month, Health Minister Joe Phaahla acknowledged the budgetary constraints from the government's end, noting that the department is working around the clock to help doctors get employment who want to serve the community.