Medicine and health care in South Africa: peculiarities of the field of health care in South Africa

South Africa


Medicine and health care in South Africa: peculiarities of the field of health care in South Africa

  South Africa is the leading and most economically developed country on the African continent, including in the medical field. In general, the state budget financing of the health sector is quite high, comparable with that even in developed countries - 8.8% of GDP is allocated for medical services here. All healthcare institutions are divided into private and public, and the level of equipment in public hospitals is comparable with that in the private sector.

  However, according to WHO, South Africa has rather high rates of HIV infection and AIDS patients among the population. Also, there are still some shortcomings and problems in the healthcare system. 

Peculiarities of the health sector in South Africa

  In South Africa, medicine is divided into two sectors:



  The healthcare system is managed by the Ministry of Health. About 80% of the population uses public medical services. More affluent residents buy insurance policies from private medical companies. 

  In most towns of South Africa, there is quite a big gap between the quality of medical services rendered by private and state insurance, which is determined by the high financing of the private sector. South Africa's medical facilities are among the best among African countries, but most of them provide services under private insurance. In public hospitals in South Africa, 40% of treatment costs are covered by public insurance. Residents who cannot get private insurance use public health services.

  In the public sector, there is a problem with a shortage of qualified doctors and staff due to poor training of medical personnel. Most doctors go to work in private clinics. However, in recent years there have been reforms to create programs and ways to improve the qualifications of doctors and the training and selection of staff. 

  Inpatient care in private clinics meets the standards and prices of Western countries. The private sector is smaller than the public sector, but it receives more than half of the annual budget. Approximately 78% of doctors in South Africa work in private clinics and hospitals. More than 200 private medical facilities operate in the country. Private services can be accessed by taking out an insurance policy. About 18 percent of the local population, not including foreigners/residents, have private health insurance. 

  With a private health insurance policy, a person has the right to:

Choose his or her physician;

To expect to see a doctor without a long waiting period;

Receive medical care from a specialist without a referral;

 There are quite a lot of private medical establishments in major South African cities, from small clinics to large medical centers. Private clinics offer a wide range and high-quality services in the field of women's and children's health, and dental services. 

 Alternative medicine still plays a considerable role in the South African healthcare system. About 80% of people resort to the help of folk healers when they have health problems. These numbers are higher in rural areas. Traditional healers and alternative health practitioners are regulated by the Associated Health Services Act of 1982. All alternative health practitioners must be licensed and qualified.

Pharmacies in South Africa

  Pharmacies in South Africa are available in most areas, and medications tend to be relatively inexpensive. This is because drug prices are set by the national government. There is also a Drug Price Register, which you can use to find out how much a certain drug should cost.

Medical services for foreigners/residents

  Fewer documents are required when registering with the South African healthcare system than in many Western countries. A resident can make an appointment with a local doctor by filling out a form and presenting only an identification document (passport) and proof of residency in South Africa. If a resident is not eligible for public health care or prefers to use private medical services, they can register with a private practitioner and visit private medical facilities. With a private insurance policy, some costs for private medical services may be covered.

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