Public Health System in South Africa – Chris-Mari van Greunen

A health system is a system that provides services in order to maintain a country’s health needs. South Africa has two health systems, namely a Public and a Private Health System. In my photo, the robot represents the Public Health System. Robots control cars, for example when to drive, when to stop, when to turn left, etc. Cars represent the patients in a health system. Patients feel that the health system control them by telling them when to go and when to stop. The Red light shows that patients sometimes feel that they are not ready to be released from hospital, but then the green light (health system) tell them that they are ready to go, although they are not really ready to be discharged. I chose this picture because public hospitals are overloaded with patients. This results in discharging patients too soon, even though they are not fully ready to be discharged. As soon as they are discharged, they will go back to work, even if they are physically not able to start working again. The sooner they return to work, the sooner they can earn an income. Some of these patients are breadwinners and need to earn money urgently, to put food on the table for their family. It increases the chances of complications afterwards. I personally feel that someone should be physically fully recovered and able to work again, before they are released from hospital. Sometimes there is not even time for physiotherapy or rehabilitation. If there is time, it will most of the time be for only one session, which is not enough. Rehabilitation consists of 9 stages and all these stages cannot be done in one session or in one day. It needs to start before surgery. Overloaded hospitals turns into hospitals with not enough staff members for all the patients. If there is time for rehabilitation, sometimes the physiotherapist does not have enough time to see all the patients. Therefore the patient does not always receive the necessary rehabilitation. Patients sometimes also feel that they are sent to a physiotherapist although they do not want to receive physiotherapy. Therefore again, they feel controlled.

According to the State of Provincial Healthcare System (2018), a woman who was in labor was controlled by the health system. She went to a public hospital where she was told to hold back and that she cannot go into labor and give birth at that moment, because there were nobody present that could assist her. After she was finally helped, her baby had complications from the prolonged birth procedure and eventually passed away. The death of a child (not an object) was caused due to a failing system because of a lack of staff. This death could have been prevented. The woman trusted a system which failed her. After this incident, she has a lack of trust and a lot of fear. She is now scared to have more children because she is still afraid that it could happen to her again and that the system can fail her again.

Gwangwa (2018) states that a woman arrived at 3 am at a public hospital and at 9 am, she was still waiting to see a doctor. This confirms that hospitals are overload with patients and doctors are understaffed and overworked to see patients. Therefore they can only help the most urgent cases. Understaffed hospitals results in telling the patients when they can be helped and when they cannot be helped. This puts a patient’s life at risk. For example, some cases need immediate attention but due to a lack of staff, the hospital tell/control the patient to wait for treatment for hours and it can cause many complications or even death. Therefore, understaffed hospitals contribute to the failing health system.

There is a lot of factors that contribute to the failing public health system of South Africa. Many of these factors form a point of view of how patients see and feel in the public health system. Due to a failing public health system in South Africa the health services that are offered does not meet patients’ health needs anymore.

Taking everything above in consideration, the Private Sector is therefore a much needed option for people, unfortunately only if it can be afforded. Private Hospitals and medical staff are more in touch of a patient’s needs as they can give proper assistance and there are enough medical staff on duty. Private hospitals and care are not controlled by the government and therefore there are no need to rush through patients. Private medical aids and cash clients can afford the services which are necessary. Private health care therefore always gives the green light to the patients and they never need to stop at a red light.


Gwangwa, V. (2018, July 02). Staff shortage hinders hospital. Retrieved May 2, 2019, from

State of Provincial Healthcare System. (May 2018). Spotlight on Western Cape. Retrieved April 30, 2019, from

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One thought on “Public Health System in South Africa – Chris-Mari van Greunen

  1. First of all, this post is very well written! Great work.
    The text and picture works well together. To be “stuck in traffic” is a feeling a lot of people are familiar with, and this metaphor quickly gives the reader a feeling of what these patients feel at times. The opening of the text is very compact and informative, and I like how you explain how the traffic light represent how the health care system works. The metaphor is well put and easy to follow throughout the text.

    I find it very interesting how you as a health care professional are able to take the patients point of view. My opinion is that if a bigger part of the health care system were able to understand this perspective, these problems could be managed in a better way (with the help of politicians of course).

    The references used clearly support the text, and they underline the importance in this matter. If you find the space and time, I would love to see a reference or reflection about the difference between public and private health care systems. Are patients in the private health care system controlled in the same way, or can they sucsessfully buy themselves the right care at the right time? Food for thought

    Overall, good work. An informative and enlighetning text.

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