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

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

What Happens When Americans Eat What They Tweet

You are what you tweet, according to new maps that show a correlation between obesity and tweeting about high-fat foods 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.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs