Free health services for the poor

There are free health services offered in South Africa at public primary health care clinics and community health care centres. Here’s what you should know.

free health services poor
Among department of health’s many initiatives to combat HIV/Aids, there are six mass mobilisation campaigns, including youth prevention, support for children in need, health worker excellence and dealing with TB and STDs. (Image: Unicef South Africa)

Brand South Africa reporter
Since 1994 the health sector has been radically transformed to increase access to the poor, improve quality and make the system more cost effective. Free health services are now offered at public primary health care clinics and community health care centres.

More clinics built

Since the government came to power, more than 500 clinics have been built, bringing health services closer to around six million people. A further 2 298 clinics have been upgraded and given new equipment and 125 new mobile clinics have been established.

Hospitals upgraded

The Hospital Revitalisation Programme is geared towards improving and re-equipping public hospitals, improving hospital management systems and the quality of the services on offer. More than R3,5-billion has been allocated over a three-year period to improve 242 hospitals.

Primary school feeding scheme

The feeding scheme that gives learners in need better nutrition, introduced eight years ago, reaches 4,7 million children at 15 000 schools — 87 percent of all those children targeted.

The benefits of the scheme have been apparent: improved school attendance and better performance of children.

Doctors

With the skills of South African doctors highly regarded worldwide the country has lost many of its doctors to countries like Britain and Canada. To combat shortages, the government has eased the entry of foreign doctors here and employed 450 foreign doctors, mostly from Cuba.

South African doctors and pharmacists must complete two years of community service in under-staffed hospitals and clinics.

Aids and other infectious diseases

The 2001 survey on pregnant women attending public sector antenatal clinics shows that HIV infection rates are levelling off and that syphilis prevalence is at its lowest level since 1990. HIV infection rates among youth have also dropped over the past three years.

Among the department’s many initiatives to combat HIV/Aids, there are six mass mobilisation campaigns, including youth prevention, support for children in need, health worker excellence and dealing with TB and STDs.

Thanks to a partnership with the private sector the government’s voluntary Counselling and Testing programme now targets 20 percent of the population aged between 17 and 49.

Malaria

Significant strides have been made in combating malaria, which has increased steadily in the country’s three north-eastern provinces — KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo — since the mid-1980s.

With the reintroduction of DDT spraying and distribution of bed nets in affected areas, the incidence of malaria has now dropped by an average of 70 percent (90 percent in KwaZulu-Natal).

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