About two thirds of South Africa’s hospitals are public hospitals. They tend to be overcrowded, under resourced and understaffed, with long waiting times. Although the medical professionals working at these facilities are generally highly qualified, the standard of medical care in public hospitals can range from acceptable to very low as they are plagued by problems such as outdated equipment, medication shortages and lack of staff. While the public system is not yet universal, fees are charged according to a patient’s income and number of dependants.
The best public hospitals are usually academic hospitals associated with the country’s major universities. Although these hospitals offer a better standard of care, waiting times for everything from a simple consultation to a major surgery can be very long, and there aren’t many creature comforts to be had.