The Treatment Action Campaign had to litigate against pharmaceutical companies back in 2001 to drop the price of medicines to treat HIV: “We do not
have the time to pursue this course now,” civil rights organisation SECTION27
has warned private sector stakeholders who have been engaging with government
on a “whole health system response to COVID-19”.

In an open
letter to the CEOs of private hospital groups, medical schemes, pharmaceutical
companies, and the producers of medical equipment and supplies, the
organisation has issued a stern warning against profiteering: “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.”

Pointing
out that 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, the
letter acknowledges that experts have been clear that the country’s health
sector 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,”
it continued, “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. “

Concluding,
the organisation urged 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 “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!”

SOURCE:
SECTION27 Communications