Healthcare in South Africa


how does the healthcare system work in South Africa ? Is it efficient ?

What are the main differences between public and private sectors?

Is it recommended to purchase private health insurance in South Africa?

Thanks in advance for sharing your experience !


Here in SA very established healthcare system. Private is better than public option as you can get for what you will pay. Public hospitals are flooded with patients because of affordability and this is the biggest difference between private and public hospital.

Though it is not mandatory but this is best to have a health scheme, better if you can choose with saving plan which can cover day to day consultancies as well as hospital  and other health professional covers. (in my personal opinion having a health plan is mandatory, no one knows when medical emergency can strike)

I will provide you with some first hand experience! :)

Government hospitals have some of the best doctors because they see the stuff everyday, they have more hands on and hence are safer! But.... the hospitals are overloaded and understaffed with other issues that I would not discuss here.

Private, less busy, more screw ups (depending on who you get). Cost is an issue, some hospitals will ask you for ZAR 800 just to open a file, then to be seen is another ZAR 400-700 depending on whether you are seeing a GP or specialist. Medicine charges - South Africa has its pharmaceuticals ridiculously priced, for e.g. Pantoprazole here would cost you anything from ZAR 220 - 308 and anywhere else the price would range from ZAR 80 to 150! On top of this, the medical aids try their level best not to pay, finding reasons not to pay and then because you signed a form on arrival at the hospital saying that you would pay if they didn't, then you end up paying. Many medical aids offer a hospital plan = they only pay if you are admitted. By the time you get admitted i.e. initial consult and referral you would have blown up 2000 to 3000 ZAR, Or they insist you see one of their GPs first, who is either a lifetime away distance wise or just off for the weekend! :) And for scans (CT/MRI), many medical aids pay only a part of it... lol! Unless of course you have one of those fancy, very expensive medical aids - 2-3k a month? Is it worth it? lol! and if you are a foreigner you pay more, because if they have to rapatriate mortal remains then...

I hope you find this helpful and you can afford an excellent medical aid!

hi, the services are good. the public are good but slow because it is free patients do not pay. private ones are expensive but worth it, the services are superb and worth ur money

Hi there, I can't vouch for the reliability of public hospitals, since my partner has always described it as a definite "no-no", and middle-class South Africans seem to be very critical of public health-care. It's supposedly free, which is great. Everyone I have spoken to seems to think I have a death wish if I ever do visit one.

Private health-care here is quite pricey compared to the average earnings of an employed South African, but it's good value for money. You basically pay for what you get. GP visits tend to be around R 300 - R 400 where we go. The atmosphere at the private clinics is leisurely, but if you truly have an emergency, they will tend to you quickly and swiftly. You will never be ignored/neglected/not receive the care you are paying for.
An example: my partner suffered of severe dehydration due to vomiting (which we later found out, was due to harmless labyrinthitis), and I was told to bring him in immediately. Once in, they put him on a drip and drew blood for further testing.
Of course, they will only tend to you in this manner if you show them your medical aid card or pay upfront. We are with Discovery at the moment. You can expect to be R 3000 lighter each month for basic medical aid for two people. However, it's worth having because of the Medical Savings Account you get, which expenses such as GP visits and dentist visits are paid out of. If you are a relatively healthy person, please still consider getting medical aid, due to the fact that you will need it if you want to be tended to well in an emergency. Road accidents are not rare in SA, and neither is crime, so please, rather choose to be prepared than not. It may save your life.

Hi Julien - I would definitely suggest you buy private health insurance (called medical aid) in South Africa. The private hospitals are excellent, whereas government healthcare is greatly understaffed and lacking supplies.

I have written two articles about that topic: Healthcare in South Africa … africa.htm and Going to the Doctor in South Africa … frica.htm. If you have any other questions about life in South Africa, visit my blog at Good luck!