Probably the kindest thing that can be said of South Africa’s public health care service is that it is vexing.
It would be unfair to say that nothing is being done to improve the system nor that it never works for anybody. Hospitals are being renovated and built, training resources are being developed and government planners and innovators are doing their best to make the system work, yet work it does not, at least not as it should. What comes to mind is the education system, which throws as much money as possible at the problem, does all the right things it can think of and still gets all the wrong results. It is distressing, not least to those who depend on the system.
The problems seem to revolve around capacity and quality of services.
One patient experience involved the need for urgent surgery to avoid septicemia and possible death – the patient was referred to the Johannesburg General Hospital where it took 11 hours to get the patient admitted.
Another patient experience involved treatment for a cancerous lesion on the patient’s leg. It took the best part of half a year to have the patient referred to a surgical unit and have the lesion removed.
Not every tale is a tale of woe. Two by-pass patients whose surgical outcomes in about 2006 were satisfactory but the one patient had to be nursed by his family while he was in hospital, because, according to the family, the nursing staff were not up to the task.
Not very reassuring.
As one medical professional put it, if you can get into the hands of the specialists, you are ok because the specialists know what they are doing. When the specialists have finished with you you need to be discharged as quickly as possible to avoid falling victim of poor post operative care and an unclean and infectious environment.
As with our eduction system, surely we can do better?
The Direct Democracy Forum (the DDF) have some thoughts about that.