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Looking after your health in South Africa

The private health care facilities in South Africa are very good — provided you keep to those in the urban areas, and around major game parks.

With over 200 well-equipped hospitals and clinics, run by trained, professional, English speaking staff, the quality of care is on a par with that of most other developed countries.

Health care insurance is essential. There is a form of public provision in South Africa, but it's not universal, fees are payable according to your situation and earnings, and there is no reciprocal agreement in place for visitors from countries like the U.S. and the UK. You’ll also find that public facilities can be in a bad repair, waiting times are long, and the staff are over-stretched. These things combined mean that if you’re relocating to South Africa, you’ll need to organise adequate cover before you leave. Make sure everything is accounted for: dental and eye health, ambulance provision, emergency and critical care, specialist and routine consultations, and elective surgery. It’s also important to ensure you have evacuation cover too, just in case you need to come home or get treated elsewhere.

Do your homework first. There are many things to consider: how you will cover sports-related injuries; how long you are likely to be in the country, and how you would like your bills for treatment to be covered (either directly by the insurance company or reimbursement). It’s essential to carry your health provision information at all times, to ensure you and your family get the treatment you need when you need it. Private facilities may require you prove your ability to pay first.

Pharmacies are readily available in urban areas but, if you intend to travel to a more rural location, be prepared to go to the nearest larger town to get medication, or take your own with you for the duration of your stay.

The rising cost of care

Be prepared to put aside a good percentage of your income for health insurance as the cost of private health care in South Africa has increased in recent years. Prices are on par with countries with a higher GDP such as the U.K., Germany and France and, as these are becoming more of a stretch on the family budget year on year, it’s worth thinking about how this will fit into your monthly expenses.

WHO health care ranking and life expectancy

The effectiveness of the South African health care system, in general, was ranked 175th out of 191 member states by the World Health Organization (WHO)in their 2000 report and a 2015 study found that life expectancy in the country was 50.7 for men and 48.7 for women. Believed to be the shortest lifespan expectancy on the planet, this is an effect of the levels of HIV/AIDS prevalent in the population. That said, the government is keen to improve this situation through some health care initiatives.

Adequate health care provision is essential if planning a move to South Africa. Before you arrange anything else, talk to our knowledgeable team about the kind of cover you'll need to keep you and your family safe and well.

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