Essential Guide to the Health System in South Africa

Discover the realities of the healthcare system in South Africa and how it may serve expats, digital nomads, retirees, and others who relocate or reside in the country.
Essential Guide to 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.

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

Additional Information:

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