The Health Ministry of South Africa is providing free primary health care to citizens in public hospitals and clinics. Though, it is under pressure to deliver service to about 80% of the population. Therefore, the government is responding with a fa reaching reform plan to revitalise and restructure the South African health care system, including; strengthening the fight against HIV-Aids, TB, Non communicable diseases, general injuries and tackling violence.

By: J.T. Jiyane

However, there is a severe shortage of doctors in South Africa, which is why the agreement of 1995 between Cuba and South Africa is being followed thoroughly by ensuring that more youth from within the country are recruited to Cuba to study medicine.

But still the gap has not been bridged through this initiative of having South African youth go and study medicine abroad, as reports suggest that the doctor-population ratio in South Africa is about 0.77 to 100.

What is complicating the situation with regard to South African public health care is that, it seems there are two burning issues in the minds of the majority of indigenous people. They no longer trust public hospitals because of the bad attitude of most nurses, and the perception is that once a person goes to the local hospital chances are that such a person is likely not to come back. Except those hospitals like Steve Academic Hospital in Pretoria and very few others which are still holding a good reputation since government by the National Party before 1994.

The gap between rich and poor in the country is growing very fast, and marching forward without redress. It starts from the very same rich indigenous people such as; business people, politicians, government servants and those in the private sector who prefer private hospitals to public because of their medical aid cards. Only those who live below the breadline go to public hospitals in South Africa, because they can not afford the private hospitals.

The Health Ministry is said to be sitting on several law suit claims demanding heavy figures in Rands for compensation as part of medical negligence committed by public hospitals during the process of treatment. Such claims/bills sooner or later shall collapse the public health care system of the country, for example Ms. Phathiswa Dada from Eastern Cape is one of the victims who lost her son recently because of medical negligence. She is not alone, the list is endless, unfortunately there are those who have not sued the Health Ministry on account that they did not know their rights in terms of procedures.

The Health Minister Dr. Aaron Motswaledi says; negligence, malpractise and adverse outcomes those are three things which may lead to injuries or certain disabilities. He also emphasised that public hospitals are not made for poor people. “I usually encourage my colleagues to go to public hospitals as I did myself and with my family,” said Minister Motswaledi.

J.T. Jiyane is a foreign correspondent of Pressenza based in South Africa.