South Africans without private medical access could wait up to five years for cancer treatment

Searching for help at a time when your world feels like it’s falling apart is difficult on its own but that hopelessness can only be exacerbated when treatment for a potentially fatal disease is withheld because of failing government medical facilities. For these reasons, as South Africans, we should adopt the mentality of “plan for the worst, expect the best”. 


South Africa has 400 public hospitals, which have to manage over 100 000 new cancer diagnoses in this country each year, yet there are only a few dozen radiation oncologists and about a handful of treatment centres nationwide. No wonder there is a backlog on both testing and treatment in this country. Adding onto that, there is an ongoing Covid-19 crisis which shows few signs of disappearing in the near future. 

Many of the public hospitals that do provide cancer treatment are unfortunately prioritising Covid-19 patients over other illnesses and many were struggling to cope even prior to the pandemic. Even with Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital currently being the biggest hospital in South Africa, the influx of cancer patients is overwhelming.

Patients waiting for long to get cancer treatment

So what is the solution – is private healthcare even an option?


There are quite a few things that need to be taken into consideration before your doctor recommends any treatment for you. Your doctor will look at the size, type and stage of your cancer tumour as well as how fast it is growing or metastasizing.


The most common cancer treatment types you’d receive are surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. These treatments don’t come cheap with medical bills amounting to R700 000 or more should you take the private route. 


On the positive side, you are likely to get the best available care at private hospitals, whereas with public hospitals people have either been denied treatment, misdiagnosed or put on a ridiculously long waiting list that doesn’t seem to show any progress. So, while private healthcare seems to be the only option, paying thousands of rands towards medical aid each month just isn’t a possibility for the average South African. 


What about specialised cancer insurance cover?


Comprehensive cancer medical insurance has become a must of the hour. Although practically all severe critical diseases, including cancer, are covered by most health insurance policies on the market today, these policies typically only pay for inpatient hospitalization and treatment in hospitals.


One solution is to get an affordable specialised cancer cover. These are specifically tailored to alleviate some of the financial challenges faced by cancer patients and their families. A cash lump sum of up to R2 million (age-dependent) is paid out upon diagnosis and can be spent on whatever the beneficiary chooses, therefore providing more choice along with financial freedom, allowing you to focus on recovery without financial stress.

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