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Serially delayed health inquiry findings now due for release "very soon".

THE publication of the provisional findings and recommendations of the health market inquiry (HMI) will be released “very soon”, according to the director of the inquiry, Clint Oellermann. He said a notice advising stakeholders of the publication date was likely to be issued on today. The health market inquiry started its work examining the cost drivers in private healthcare four-and-a-half years ago and was originally due to conclude it in December 2015.

A further delay in the publication of the provisional report was announced in a notice by the inquiry panel last Friday because of the initial objections by Life Healthcare that doing so would breach the confidentiality of the information it had provided to the inquiry. However, the healthcare provider wrote a letter to the inquiry on Friday indicating that it did not want its concerns about confidentiality to delay publication of the provisional report. Life Healthcare’s head of investor relations, Adam Pyle, said there was an expectation that the report would be published this week. Originally four healthcare providers - Discovery Health, Netcare, Life Healthcare and Mediclinic - objected to the publication of certain of the information contained in the provisional report, which they said was subject to confidentiality restrictions. The health market inquiry’s notice to stakeholders on Friday said that through further engagements the inquiry’s panel was able to resolve the dispute with Discovery Health, Netcare and Mediclinic but not with Life Healthcare. The inquiry’s panel does not believe its analysis is confidential and decided to take the matter to the Competition Commission for a determination as to whether the publication of the preliminary report breaches confidentiality as claimed by Life Healthcare. However, this decision was reversed following withdrawal by Life Healthcare of its objection to publication. Non-governmental organisation (NGO) Section27 said in a statement following the announcement of the delay in publication that this would affect the right to health as questions about the affordability and equity of the private health system had to be addressed urgently. Section27 said the HMI has postponed the conclusion of the inquiry multiple times for several reasons, including the delays in obtaining data from stakeholders such as medical schemes and private hospitals, the complexity of the datanand the analysis thereof, and on the need to allow stakeholders access to the underlying data relied upon by the HMI.

The organisation noted that in August 2017, the health market inquiry announced its intention to publish the provisional report by November 30 2017, however, the three large hospital groups - Netcare, Mediclinic SA and Life Healthcare - argued that publishing of the provisional report would be procedurally unfair without the relevant analysis reports and underlying confidential data and information, upon which it relied, being made available for scrutiny, prior to publication. The inquiry subsequently gave access to the relevant information to the stakeholders. Since providing access to its underlying data, the health market inquiry was set to release the interim report on April 30, then May 31, then June 28, Section 27 said. Linda Ensor & Tamar Kahn: BusinessLIVE, 25 June 2018

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