This is all you need to know about South Africa’s healthcare system. Most tourist chose to travel to South Africa for tourism, vacations and relaxation. Hence, are you thinking of taking a vacation or relocating to start a new career over there, you’ll probably want to know more about South Africa’s healthcare system. On the plus side, it should interest you that South Africa has the best hospitals and medical infrastructure in southern Africa. However, there is much room for improvement as this study shows.
According to the 2023 mid report of Global Healthcare Index, South Africa’s healthcare system ranks 50th out of 94 Countries. This ranking was higher than the 2022 report that placed the Country at 49th out of 89 countries ranked by Global Healthcare Index. Health care accessibility remains poor in rural areas and there are problems retaining physicians in the public system. Furthermore, only an estimated 28% of patients who need mental healthcare receive it. That said, South Africa’s healthcare system is slowly and steadily improving overall. The government is also working towards improving the country’s healthcare system.
Costs of the Healthcare System
South African public healthcare is funded by the government through taxation, as well as through point-of-care spending from patients.
Additionally, Public healthcare in South Africa is subsidized by up to 41% by the government. The system uses the Uniform Patient Fee Schedule or UPFS to regulate patient billings and physician payments. Patient charges are based on income and family size and the UPFS uses three categories of patients to determine the cost of different visits and procedures. The 3 categories are summarized thus:
- First, the ‘Full paying patients’ are either being treated by a private physician, are externally funded, or are non-citizens. This would apply to expats, who are eligible to use public facilities but must pay the highest billing category.
- Secondly, the ‘Partially subsidized patients’ are eligible to have the cost of their care partially covered on the basis of their income.
- Finally, ‘Fully subsidized patients’ are those who are referred to a hospital by the Primary Healthcare Services. This mostly applies to people who have a lower income and the lower class level.
Additionally, there are also some occasions in which certain medical services are free. For instance, there are nearly 3,500 clinics that provide free healthcare to pregnant women and children under the age of six in South Africa.
Overview of South Africa’s Healthcare System
The Healthcare in South Africa is administered by the Department of Health headed by a Health Minister. However, South Africa does not have a system of universal healthcare. Instead, it has two parallel systems, namely; A private healthcare system [owned by private individuals] and a public healthcare system [owned by government]. interestingly, they both operate in tandem with one another.
Just like any other Countries in the World, South Africa, with a growing population of 60 Million has up to 80% of her population rely on the public system for their care. The public system is subsidized by the government. Although, it is underfunded and poorly managed. There are more than 450 public hospitals in South Africa. Large, regional hospitals are managed by provincial health departments, while the smaller hospitals and primary healthcare clinics are managed at the municipal level.
Additionally, an estimated 80% of doctors work in the private system, serving just 20% or so of the population, primarily middle class and upper-class families, as well as expats. As such, the public system is constantly short of resources, while the private system is very strong but costly.
The Differences between Private and Public healthcare in South Africa
As a general rule, public hospitals in South Africa are underfunded and understaffed. Patients are frustrated by long waiting times, a lack of privacy, and serious overcrowding. A significant source of the problems is that public hospitals aren’t given adequate resources by the Government. As such, they cannot update their equipment, pay competitive wages to keep top doctors working locally, train healthcare workers or even stock their pharmacies. To say that the staff of public hospitals are overworked would be an understatement. The situation is further complicated by deep corruption.
Amid underfunded healthcare, it should be noted that Johannesburg and Cape Town are both well known for their excellent public hospitals. Additionally, public hospitals that are associated with major universities in the country offer a high standard of care. However, everyone knows this and the waiting times at university hospitals are extensive for all their services. Residents are really in a tough situation. They can go to a busy popular hospital and wait to receive the best quality of care. The other choice is to go to a poorly rated facility in hopes of being seen more quickly.
Fortunately, South Africa has excellent private healthcare operated by private individuals. Patients who use the private healthcare system can expect short wait times and modern facilities. There is greater privacy and hospital stays are more comfortable. South Africa’s private hospitals are also home to the country’s best doctors. These facilities can offer higher wages and better benefits from the public system hospitals. Also, accessing private hospitals is very cost in South Africa.
South African Healthcare Options for Expats and Foreigners: For the best possible care, expats should carry private global medical insurance in South Africa. The quality of healthcare can vary dramatically between regions in South Africa.
Who is Eligible For healthcare in South Africa?
South Africa’s constitution guarantees that everyone has access to healthcare services. This includes expats, refugees, and asylum seekers. Therefore, just by living in South Africa, expats are able to receive public healthcare.
Finding an Alternative Medicine in South Africa
Alternative medicine is extremely important to South Africans. An estimated 80% of South Africans rely on the services of a traditional practitioner to some degree. This figure rises to more than 90% in rural areas. Alternative and traditional medicine, while widely used, isn’t without controversy. For instance, some practitioners have claimed they can treat or even cure HIV/AIDS, one of South Africa’s most serious health problems, which greatly frustrates those practicing standard medicine. However, much progress has been made and collaborative programs are developing to sensitize the citizens.
Interestingly, South Africa’s healthcare system is on the verge of some serious changes. The government is working to establish a national health insurance system. The goals of this system are to: improve the nation’s health, make healthcare more affordable for everyone, and to address inequalities between different socio-economic groups. However, discussions about implementing such a system are still in their infancy and will take a long time to develop. With a hearth of dedication, South Africa is getting there.