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The economy of South Africa is largest in the continent of Africa, and the 24th largest in the world. Because of this, South Africa is generally considered as the most economically developed country in Africa.
The standard of healthcare in South Africa is considered the best on the African continent, particularly in the urban and coastal areas. The country has a number of private and public hospitals, nursing homes and clinics.
Hospitals and doctors will often require immediate payments for their health services. However, if you wish to have a consistent level of service, private health insurance is recommended.
South Africa has guaranteed universal access to subsidised public health care, for all citizens, based on a sliding scale according to income. A National Health Insurance (NHI) initiative is in a pilot phase prior to being introduced across the country in a phased approach from 2016 - 2025.
Private healthcare is prominent in South Africa and continues to grow rapidly driven by private medical insurance and by popular demand for personal choice and ease of access to higher quality services. This growth comes at a price of high annual inflation in private medical costs.
The country is self-sufficient and manages all its healthcare funding requirements from domestic revenue sources. International donor organisations and philanthropic foundations do play a large role in funding specific health programs of their choice, especially in HIV prevention and treatment.
High quality healthcare services are available in the private sector in South Africa. This includes a diverse range of individual private provider offices across all medical and allied professions, private clinics and specialised hospitals. The private sector also includes dental services, pharmacies and private ambulance services across the country. Private and public hospitals, as well as a number of clinics and health centres, are located in rural areas. Generally speaking, medical facilities in South Africa are very good, especially those in private hospitals. The general practitioners, the nurses and the medical staff are trained at top medical schools in the country. Some of the specialists obtained their medical degrees and underwent training in western countries like the US and the UK.
As with other countries, South Africa has certain diseases that expatriates should be aware of. Infectious diseases are generally a major concern, not just in South Africa but the whole of the African continent. It is better to seek the most up-to-date medical advice before you decide to move. Try to set an appointment with your doctor at least four to six weeks before your trip. This will allow ample time for the vaccinations and other necessary shots to take effect. Furthermore, there are no risks of yellow fever in South Africa. Thus, yellow fever vaccination certificates will be required from travellers and visitors that arrive from infected locations. Although not required by South African law, vaccinations against polio and typhoid are strongly recommended. Travellers are also advised to have vaccines for rabies and Hepatitis A and B.
Medicines in South Africa are relatively affordable. The prices are similar to those of other African countries. Pharmacies are manned by well-trained and professional pharmacists.
South Africa has very good facilities for emergency cases. Ambulances are properly equipped and there is a contact number that can be used in emergency situations.
In most of the rural and urban areas in South Africa, tap water is generally safe and potable. Milk products are properly pasteurised and dairy products, poultry, local meat, seafood, vegetables and fruits are generally considered safe to eat.
The climate in South Africa’s low altitude areas assists in the spread of malaria. The malignant falciparum form lasts throughout the year in most areas, specifically on the Northern Province, in Eastern Transvaal, which includes the Kruger National Park and KwaZulu Natal, and south as far as the Tugela River.
For expatriates and travellers there are anti-malaria tablets available. Furthermore, aside from taking anti-malaria tablets, measures can be taken to avoid mosquito bites. Malaria, as well as other insect-borne diseases like filariasis and dengue can be avoided by applying insect repellents and wearing loose, long clothing after dark. Additionally, avoid swimming in fresh water, except in swimming pools that are properly-chlorinated. This will help to avoid a parasitic infection called schistosomiasis.
As with other African countries, South Africa has been blighted by the scale of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) and HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infected patients.