The PHEF is a social compact established by 22 healthcare companies, including Aspen Pharmacare and the National Department of Health (NDOH). The main objectives of the National Health Scholars Programme are the expansion of health professionals, and to increase the number of medical students from rural areas, as well as to provide support for the training of Masters and PHD students who seek to develop new interventions for combating HIV/AIDS, TB and noncommunicable diseases.

Public/private collaborations such as the Public Health Enhancement Fund (PHEF) will be vital to establishing the groundwork for NHI.

The focus on medical students from rural areas is mainly based on the premise that once they have completed their studies, these individuals will go back and service their communities. This model represents a sustainable way to provide access to quality healthcare and a renewed hope to disadvantaged areas. The first cohort of 60 medical students have now graduated from medical school and are serving their internship.

This is a significant achievement for the country, as these doctors are likely to futuristically commit their services to the public sector and in particular rural-based communities. In addition, four cohorts, totalling 75 PhD post-graduate students are being sponsored by the fund, of which 47 have graduated and are providing much needed research capacity to our country. In order to celebrate this achievement a media event was recently held, in order to draw the public’s attention to this programme and its achievements.

In his keynote address, ex-Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi noted the importance of public-private partnership and said, “It is therefore crystal clear that we must build human capital to ensure that we are not left behind, and I am pleased that the Public Health Enhancement Fund has been very productive and that today we can announce what we have achieved to date.”

The event was also used to pay special tribute to the late Prof Bongani Mayosi who initially spearheaded the selection process for the National Health Scholars Programme. For this reason, the National Health Scholars Programme was renamed on the day to the Bongani Mayosi National Health Scholars Programme.

Responding to the Minister, Aspen Pharmacare’s Stavros Nicolaou added that while some differences exist between the public and private healthcare sectors, this is an excellent example of what can be achieved when the two are able to cooperate. “The fund has focused on delivery and delivered a number of doctors and postgraduates, all of whom will meaningfully contribute to improving healthcare services in public health.”