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02.10.2008 South Africa

Health care in South Africa


The economy of South Africa is largest in the continent of Africa, and the 24th largest in the world. Because of this, South Africa is generally considered as the most social and economically developed country in Africa.

Standard of health care in South Africa
The standard of health care in South Africa is considered the best on the African continent, particularly in the urban and coastal areas. The country has a number of private and public hospitals, nursing homes and clinics. The hospital facilities in Johannesburg are notably impressive.

Hospitals and doctors will often require immediate payments for their health services. However, if you wish to have a consistent level of service, private health insurance is recommended.

Hospitals and clinics
Private and public hospitals, as well as a number of clinics and health centres are located in rural areas. Generally speaking, medical facilities in South Africa are very good, especially those in private hospitals. The general practitioners, the nurses and the medical staff are trained at top medical schools in the country. Some of the specialists obtained their medical degrees and underwent training in western countries like the US and the UK.

Diseases and vaccination
As with any other country, South Africa has certain diseases that expatriates should be aware of. Infectious diseases are generally a major concern, not just in South Africa but the whole of the African continent. It is better to seek the most up-to-date medical advice before you decide to move. Try to set an appointment with your doctor at least four to six weeks before your trip. This will allow ample time for the vaccinations and other necessary shots to take effect. Furthermore, there are no risks of yellow fever in South Africa. Thus, yellow fever vaccination certificates will be required from travellers and visitors that arrive from infected locations. Although not required by South African law, vaccinations against polio and typhoid are strongly recommended. Travellers are also advised to have vaccines for rabies and Hepatitis A and B.

Cost of medicines
The medicines in South Africa are relatively affordable. The prices are similar to those of other African countries. Pharmacies are manned by well-trained and professional pharmacists.

South Africa has very good facilities for emergency cases. Ambulances are properly equipped and there is a contact number that can be used in emergency situations.

Food and drink
In most of the rural and urban areas in South Africa, tap water is generally safe and potable. Milk products are properly pasteurized and dairy products, poultry, local meat, seafood, vegetables and fruits are generally considered safe to eat.

Health issues
The climate in South Africa's low altitude areas assists in the spread of malaria. The malignant falciparum form lasts throughout the year in most areas, specifically on the Northern Province, in Eastern Transvaal, which includes the Kruger National Park, KwaZulu Natal, and south as far as the Tugela River.

For expatriates and travellers, there are anti-malaria tablets now available. Most travellers take Mefloquine. Furthermore, aside from taking anti-malaria tablets, measures can be taken to avoid mosquito bites. Malaria, as well as other insect-borne diseases like filariasis and dengue can be avoided by applying insect repellents and wearing loose, long clothing after dark. Additionally, avoid swimming in fresh water, except in swimming pools that are properly-chlorinated. This will help to avoid a parasitic infection called schistosomiasis.

As with other African countries, South Africa has been blighted by the rapid scale of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) and HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).

Commentary: Following the untimely death of our Finance Minister, let us all examine the Healthcare in South Africa and compare it with our healthcare system. Let us look at ways of improving our own healthcare facilities. Life is too short and too precious for us to leave it to chance. Let us endeavour to spend more money on the living and preventive care. If you have to go to South Africa, please ensure you have adequate private medical insurance.