Interest in living and working in South Africa has increased on the back of the country’s successful hosting of the football World Cup but potential expats are being warned that the health care can be diverse.
Too many people assume wrongly that the healthcare system in South Africa is on par with the NHS in the UK or the healthcare in other European countries, according to MediCare International.
Some parts of the country have a high degree of provision and South Africa’s plastic and general surgery is of such a high standard that is has see a rise in so called health tourism. But the country is not without its problems with a rocketing AIDS epidemic and little or no healthcare provision in remote and rural areas.
The result is an enormous country with a diverse combination of state of the art healthcare facilities on one hand and only very basic healthcare servicing many poorer communities.
To try and assist those with less money, the government runs a scheme for local nationals which charges them an amount for public sector healthcare based on their income and the number of dependents they have. But the vast majority of immigrants and expats will not have access to public sector healthcare and so must ensure they have adequate healthcare cover.
Visitors and those residing in the country should also ensure their vaccinations are up to date, as well as taking precautions to avoid infections such as AIDS and Malaria.
According to the NHS, if you are travelling to South Africa you should have vaccinations against Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Cholera and TB. The Yellow Fever vaccination is only needed if you are travelling to a high-risk rural area, and Diphtheria and Hepatitis B are needed if you are working in unhygienic, high-risk sectors, such as health workers. Anti-Malaria tablets are needed in the summer months in Kruger National Park, Limpopo and KwaZulu Natal.
The experts also point out that most tap water is safe, but if you are not 100% sure it is best to drink mineral water, which is widely available across South Africa.
When looking for health insurance it is always best to look for a provider that covers repatriation costs, ancillary services and surgery costs to cover the risk of having to be evacuated to a larger town or even abroad. Although such costs are cheaper in South Africa than in the US for example, it may be that finding a suitable healthcare centre involves far more complications and travel, given the real possibility of exposure to serious disease and poor sanitation.
‘Anyone who has visited South Africa will understand straight away why people would like to visit and or relocate there. Its fabulous climate and scenery needs to be enjoyed with the confidence of a healthcare policy that covers every eventuality,’ said David Pryor, senior executive director at MediCare International.
‘Although South Africa has some world-class health facilities, they are not easily accessible. That’s why it is key that your policy should enable you to be transported quickly and safely to the nearest healthcare centre, ensuring your medical attention is the best on offer,’ he added.