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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid