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South Africa - Health Service

The healthcare system in South Africa is quite developed with excellent hospitals and affordable health insurance plans. However, despite the high standards of healthcare, there are many health problems affecting people in the country. Some of the major public health concerns in South Africa include tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and smoking-related diseases. Most of these health complications affect an increasingly high number of people in poor neighborhoods that lack proper sanitation facilities.

The life expectancy for native black South Africans is 46.56 years. However, the life expectancy of white South Africans is much higher than that of black South Africans because of better access to healthcare facilities. In addition, black neighborhoods typically have higher crime and murder rates, which lower the life expectancy of black South Africans. On the other hand, most white South Africans live in relatively secure neighborhoods with lower crime and murder rates, which increases their life expectancy.


Although it is not mandatory for visitors to be immunized before coming to South Africa, it is advisable to ensure that you get your tetanus and polio shots before traveling. Citizens of countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, and South America where yellow fever is endemic are required to provide documentary proof that they have been vaccinated.

In addition, it is advisable to talk to your doctor about your intended visit to South Africa at least six weeks before travelling, especially if you are pregnant or have certain health complications including heart diseases and asthma. Vaccinations against hepatitis B are required only by those who will be working in healthcare or hospitality industry.

Public Healthcare

South Africa's healthcare system is a representation of the country's position as a blend of people living in both first and third world conditions. Big cities and towns such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban have big and modern healthcare facilities with modern amenities and state-of-the- art medical equipment. This is quite a contrast from facilities in rural areas that have very basic medical equipment and are understaffed. Although there are some healthcare facilities whose standards match those of medical facilities in Europe and North America, many hospitals in South Africa are understaffed, inadequately funded, and inefficient.

Contact the Health Professions Council of South Africa (Tel. 012-338 9300 or 6680) to find a general practitioner (GP) in your area. This council has records of all registered medical practitioners. In addition, it is advisable to visit reputable healthcare facilities in South Africa to avoid falling prey to fraudsters who pose as professional medical practitioners.

Although public hospitals and clinics in South Africa are often overcrowded with long queues, they are well equipped and have qualified staff. However, you will have to wait for a long time to be attended to. Expats are required to pay for their own medical care by either cash or medical insurance. It is advisable to contact as many medical insurance companies as possible to compare their rates. Choose a policy that will best serve your interests and those of your family.

South Africa's healthcare system has to serve eight percent of the population and yet it only gets forty percent of the total expenditure from the government. Only 11 percent of the country’s budget expenditure is allocated to healthcare. In addition, allocated resources are usually divided among the 11 provinces. This makes public healthcare in South Africa expensive, inaccessible, and of lower standards. Healthcare services in poorer provinces such as the Eastern Cape are of much of lower standards.

The South African health care system consists of healthcare institutions in 162 health districts and 42 health regions. In recent years, there have been considerable improvements in the South African healthcare system. Currently 125 mobile clinics have been introduced and over 700 clinics have been built or upgraded. In addition, over 2,300 clinics have been given new equipment and 125 mobile clinics established. Moreover, children under the age of six as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women receive free healthcare in over 3,500 public clinics.

Close to 500 expat doctors have been hired by the South African government to offer various healthcare services to South Africans. This has helped mitigate the doctor’s shortage problem.


All non-residents who visit public hospitals in South Africa are required to pay for their medical care because South Africa does not have reciprocal health agreements with other countries. Citizens also pay for medical services in South African hospitals, but at a subsidized rate. Hospitals have a rating scale that determines the amount of money that South Africans can pay for healthcare services based on their income.

Charges for healthcare services in South Africa are often low by western standards. For example, R13 (1.30 euros) is what pensioners are charged for consultation, drugs, and for tests in some cases. Top income earners pay about R55 (€5.70) for consultation. However, they often pay extra for drugs and tests. R485 (€50) per day is what top-earning patients pay for hospital stays excluding drugs and theater costs. Although the waiting lists can be very long, state hospitals offer specialist treatment. Nevertheless, it is advisable to opt for private treatment if you can afford it.

Private Healthcare

Private healthcare is a much better choice for those who can afford it. Costs for private hospitals and clinics are actually lower than in many western countries, especially the US. Health care schemes cover around 18 per cent of South Africa’s population, which gives them access to private facilities.

With around forty three hospitals and eighteen day clinics throughout South Africa, Netcare is the largest private healthcare provider, followed by Medi-clinic with fifty three hospitals. South Africa’s high rate of road accidents has severely stretched the state’s ambulance system. Therefore, it is advisable to ensure that your insurance includes cover for private rapid response emergency services. Netcare 911 is one of largest private rapid response company with the country’s the biggest fleet of response ambulances, vehicles, helicopters, and jets. In addition, their emergency medical services are offered by trained paramedics.

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