News / Africa

South African Health Care Might be Rationed

A Paramedic from the Kwazulu-Natal Emergencies Medical Rescue Services (EMR) inspects one of the 150 new Ambulances stationed at Durban's Wentworth Hospital, South Africa, 28 Feb 2010
A Paramedic from the Kwazulu-Natal Emergencies Medical Rescue Services (EMR) inspects one of the 150 new Ambulances stationed at Durban's Wentworth Hospital, South Africa, 28 Feb 2010

South Africa continues to be in a health care crisis.  Doctors and nurses are leaving the country.  Equipment, supplies and hospitals are inadequate.  And, there are charges that the health care system is rife with fraud and mismanagement.

This woman, who does not want to be identified by name, has tuberculosis. Every day she comes to this clinic to get her medication.

"I lost two brothers because of the TB," she said.  "That is why I want to take the treatment for TB and finish this course.

She is one of the lucky ones.  The Eastern Cape is poor.  Unemployment is high and disease is rampant.  HIV, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases are all at pandemic proportions.  But the health care system is in chaos.  

Daygan Eager is a researcher for the Public Service Accountability Monitor.

"There isn't capacity there to deliver even the most basic services," said Eager.  "You're talking about rehydration packs for people with diarrhea.  Diarrhea is a major killer in South Africa."

In South Africa, each province has its own health care department.  Here in the Eastern Cape, this department has a long documented history of mismanagement and fraud.  Siva Pillay is the head of the department.

"We did investigations.  We found huge fraud.  I don't want to lie to you.  There's more than $200 million rand [$27million] of fraud and things like that," noted Pillay.

The biggest problem, though, is the increase in tuberculosis. Most of the patients here with TB are also HIV positive. Doctors, like Pillay, believe the increase in TB is because of the HIV epidemic.

"Our biggest pandemic today is the HIV pandemic, with the TB component which is complicating the issues," added Pillay.

Yet, reports say people often go untreated for both HIV and TB because the department does not have the capacity to handle them.   So this volunteer, who goes by the name Toyota, tries to deal with the HIV part of it by counseling women to be tested for HIV.  She is HIV positive, herself.  She got the disease when she fell in love with a man who was HIV positive.

"He helped me by lending me money to go to school," said Toyota.  "But, at the same time he hurt me, because he didn't tell me he was HIV positive."

The man died.  Today, she is on anti-retroviral drugs.  She says many women will not go in for testing, because being HIV positive carries a certain stigma.

"Meaning you are like a prostitute, you got it from selling your body.  So that's why people don't want to come out," added Toyota.

It is estimated that tens of thousands of people are walking around, untreated for HIV/AIDS.  And, that has just worsened the TB problem.  TB can be life threatening, if it is not treated. For those that can find the treatment, it is long.  Six months of pills taken daily.  But a volunteer named Duda says a lot of people stop taking their medication too early.

"They [are] feeling strong.  They are gaining weight.  Now they stay at home.  They think they are cured," Duda explained.

But they are often not cured.  The TB comes back and sometimes in more dangerous forms.  Again, researcher Daygan Eager.

"You talk about high level services like HIV and TB.  Very often the services are not there for people who need the services desperately," added Eager.

Health department head Pillay says he just does not have the money to improve the services.

"You have a budget that is insufficient to provide the necessary treatment to provide health care," he noted.

And Pillay says, if the number of ill continue to increase, he will have to consider denying treatment to some people, so he can give it to others - even for critical conditions like HIV. In effect, he will be rationing the care.

"We like to believe that there is none, because health care is a very emotional issue, but everywhere there is rationing of care. And, rationing of care is a reality we will have to face," added Pillay.

The United States, one of several countries providing aid to help African nations combat HIV/AIDS, has given more than one billion dollars, so far, to South Africa.  And it has pledged another $500 million, in the next two years. Yet treatment is not reaching thousands of people, either because they do not want it or because South Africa's strained health care services cannot deliver it.

You May Like

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 Million by January

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid