A general practitioner (GP) is a medical doctor who provides primary care and specialises in family medicine. A general practitioner treats acute illnesses and provides preventive care and health education for all. They have particular skills in treating people with multiple health issues.
GPs have a professional duty to care for the safety and wellbeing of their patients. However, for a simple consultation with a general practitioner in South Africa, you have to pay a consultation fee, and this is besides paying for the medication that will be prescribed to you by the GP. So, does a visit to the doctor make your wallet feel significantly lighter? If you feel this way, you aren’t alone.
Private healthcare is extremely expensive in South Africa and public healthcare is hardly adequate with shortfalls of facilities and GPs, to name but a few.
According to Section 27 of the South African Constitution, everyone has the right to healthcare services, but many South Africans, amongst both the poor and middle classes, don’t access healthcare for two reasons: firstly, because our public healthcare system is dysfunctional; and secondly, because private healthcare has simply become too expensive. Healthcare in South Africa varies from the most basic primary healthcare, offered free by the state, to highly specialised, hi-tech health services available in both the public and private sectors.
80% of South Africa’s population of about 50 million people depend on public healthcare. According to the South African Medical Association, 70% of the country’s doctors work in the private sector. Private healthcare costs are spiralling out of control in South Africa. The private sector spends about R66 billion to service about 7 million people, while the rest of the population depends on R59 billion spent on the public health sector.
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