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Expat Exchange - How to Navigate the Health System in South Africa
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How to Navigate the Health System in South Africa

By Joshua Wood, LPC

SJB Global
SJB Global

Summary: Familiarize yourself with the health system in South Africa. Understand its usage options and constraints for those who choose to move to and reside there, including expats, digital nomads, and retirees.

The Health System in South Africa - How to Navigate the Health System in South Africa

South Africa's healthcare system is composed of both public and private healthcare systems. The public healthcare system is called the National Health Insurance (NHI) and is funded by the government. It is available to all South African citizens and permanent residents, and foreigners are allowed to use the public healthcare system in South Africa. However, the public healthcare system is not typically used by foreigners, as it is not as comprehensive as private healthcare. People generally do not recommend using public hospitals for serious medical emergencies and major surgery, as the quality of care is not as high as private hospitals. Public hospitals in South Africa are often overcrowded and understaffed, and the quality of care can be inconsistent.

South Africa's Private Healthcare System

South Africa's private healthcare system is more comprehensive and of higher quality than the public system. Private healthcare is more expensive than public healthcare, but it is often the preferred option for expats and digital nomads. Private hospitals in South Africa are well-equipped and staffed, and they provide a higher quality of care than public hospitals. People generally recommend using private hospitals for serious medical emergencies and major surgery, as the quality of care is much higher.

South Africa's Top Hospitals

Some of the most well-known hospitals in South Africa include:

  • Netcare Milpark Hospital (private, Johannesburg)
  • Netcare Garden City Clinic (private, Johannesburg)
  • Netcare Sunninghill Hospital (private, Johannesburg)
  • Netcare Waterfall City Hospital (private, Johannesburg)
  • Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital (private, Cape Town)
  • Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital (private, Cape Town)
  • Netcare N1 City Hospital (private, Cape Town)
  • Netcare St Augustine's Hospital (private, Durban)
  • Netcare Umhlanga Hospital (private, Durban)
  • Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital (public, Johannesburg)
  • Tygerberg Hospital (public, Cape Town)
  • King Edward VIII Hospital (public, Durban)

Health Insurance Companies in South Africa

The most popular private health insurers in South Africa are Discovery Health, Momentum Health, and Bonitas Medical Fund. These companies provide comprehensive health insurance plans for individuals, families, and businesses. Expats and digital nomads typically use these companies, rather than specialized expat health insurance providers.

Insider Tips from Expats in South Africa: How to Navigate the Health System

"South Africa has a well-developed healthcare system, with both public and private medical services available. The public healthcare system is largely funded by the government and provides free or low-cost medical services to citizens. Private medical services are also available, offering a higher standard of care and more specialized services. South Africa has a wide range of medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, and specialists, as well as a number of hospitals and clinics. The country also has a number of medical research centers and universities that offer medical degrees," commented one member living in South Africa.

"I have insurance that covers hospital stays and some surgery. I also pay for "gap insurance", which pays most all of the shortfall in coverage for surgery. Result is that almost 100% of the costs were paid for the five major surgeries that we have had in the post 10 years," commented one expat living in Cape Town, South Africa.

"South Africa has a comprehensive healthcare system that provides a range of services to its citizens. The public healthcare system is funded by the government and is available to all South African citizens and permanent residents. The public healthcare system is generally of good quality, with a network of public hospitals and clinics providing primary, secondary and tertiary care. Foreign residents are able to access the public healthcare system, but may be required to pay for some services. Expats in South Africa can use the public healthcare system, but may need to pay for some services. Private healthcare is also available in South Africa, and many expats opt to use private healthcare services due to the higher quality of care and shorter waiting times," mentioned one expat living in South Africa.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


SJB Global
SJB Global

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