Social Justice or Grandiose Scheme? : The 1944 National Health Services Commission (the Gluckman Commission) Revisited

Monday, 30 September, 2013 - 15:00

Presented by : 

In June 2012 the SAHJ carried two 'revisionist' articles on the 1942-44 South African  National Health Services Commission (the NHSC or Gluckman Commission, after its Chairman, Dr Henry Gluckman), the first by the eminent African economic historian, Bill Freund, the second, by the much-published medical historian, Anne Digby.  The Commission’s  specific remit was to report and advise upon 'the provision of an organized National Health Service, in conformity with the modern conception of "Health" for all [sic] sections of the people of the Union of South Africa'.  After exhaustive enquiries across the Union and from all sections of the population it recommended the establishment of a National Health Service, with health centres as its foundation at the local level. As we all probably know, this did not happen:  Smuts, then Prime Minister refused to take on the provinces which controlled regional hospitals and thought the entire venture far too expensive; the handful of health centres came under attack from members of the medical profession who feared they were taking away their patients,  and were allowed to atrophy were by the Nationalist government.  .As Freund and Digby point out, however, there has been relatively little detailed historical analysis of this Commission, despite a number of general accounts, mainly by its medical admirers.  At a time when South Africa is implementing its National Health Insurance scheme, such an endeavour could be welcome and timely. 


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