What terrifies me the most

David Bullard writes on illness, ageing, and the prospect of the NHI


I’m due for some surgery this week. It’s only an inguinal hernia repair so it’s nothing to get too stressed about. Apparently as we get older the bit of tissue that holds our stomach in place wears a bit thin and, gravity being what it is, bits of us slide down to our groin area producing a rather worrying bulge.

Naturally I Googled “bulges in the groin” as soon as this happened and was considerably better informed in ten minutes than anybody who has spent seven years studying medicine. I also convinced myself that this was a death sentence until I found out the bulge disappeared whenever I lay down on a bed.

Fortunately the subject of inguinal hernias came up in conversation at our regular Friday evening wine club night and I discovered that one of my neighbours had just had an op for that very thing and was well pleased with the result.

So I asked him the name of his surgeon and made an appointment last week to visit him for a consultation. No need for a GP referral apparently so I was able to get straight to the point. 

After filling in my medical aid details at the reception desk I went in to see the surgeon and discuss the problem. Obviously I needed an operation but my medical aid scheme doesn’t cover the hospital at which I was consulting the surgeon. Not a problem apparently because he also operates at a nearby day clinic every Thursday and that is covered by my medical aid scheme.

So it was back out to reception to sort out the details. The receptionist phoned my medical aid to give the practice’s details, the codes for the procedure and to ask the day hospital for an operating date. Happily they could accommodate me exactly a week after my consultation so 7am on the 23rd January it is and nil by mouth from 22h00 the day before.

As I left the consulting room my cell phone messaging system beeped with the operation authorization number and the hospital name and by the time I got home an e.mail from Discovery Health was awaiting me telling me just what an inguinal hernia was, what they were proposing to do about it and giving me an admission form to print out and take with me. It couldn’t have been simpler or more efficient.

Which is why I (and many others) are absolutely terrified of the proposed introduction of a National Health Insurance medical scheme. Will I really be able to get such swift service under an ANC run health service?

I doubt it. Firstly, I won’t have any choice of which doctor I consult because the government will apparently have allocated a doctor to me. If I happen to dislike or distrust this doctor then it’s my bad luck. Part of the reason I visited my friend’s surgeon was to see whether we felt comfortable with one another.

If I hadn’t then it would have been R900 well spent in my opinion and I would have moved on to another medical practitioner. Secondly, would I have been able to get such quick service, both for consultation and for a surgery date?

Almost certainly not because I would have had to throw my lot in with the rest of the Western Cape’s surgery seekers. Thirdly, would I have been able to choose a hospital convenient to me? Absolutely not because the government in their all seeing wisdom know better and will tell me where to go.

There are not many things that completely freak me out about this country but the proposed outlawing of private medical schemes is something that terrifies me and gives me 3 in the morning panic attacks.

As we watch South Africa fail all around us there are certain things we can do to try and remain self sufficient. Some of them cost money and will inevitably call down the accusation of “privilege” on our heads. So putting up solar panels and installing an inverter with a lithium battery for back up is likely to cost you well in excess of R100 000, depending on the size of your house.

Buying a water from air machine to provide you with decent quality drinking water may well cost you R20 000 and so it goes on. In an attempt to survive the next few years while everything around me collapses I have spent a large chunk of my savings; something I never budgeted for when I retired. People often ask me what I’m up to these days and I generally reply that I’m in a bizarre race with my savings to see which expires first. It’s beginning to look like the savings are edging well ahead.

My monthly contribution to medical aid is not a grudge purchase. I am more than happy to know I can get world class medical care where I live with superb specialists and the finest equipment. But I fear that may all be coming to an end soon.

Notwithstanding the fact that my monthly contributions and use of private health care help to take the pressure off public health care mean nothing to the commies who run the show.

Equality is of paramount importance and if that happens to be equality of crap medical care then viva socialism. How dare mere citizens spend their own after tax income to buy a better service? That privilege is reserved for the hypocritical party elite who travel overseas for medical care and send their children to private schools.

Our only hope is that the country becomes so broke that the introduction of NHI becomes completely impossible. But not even that will deter the maniacs who seem determined to push ahead with this lunacy and drive every highly qualified medical practitioner overseas.

Don’t misunderstand me. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the proposal to introduce a national health scheme for all SA citizens. In a perfect world nobody should be prejudiced when it comes to health care. What is wrong is the appalling track record of the kleptomaniacs who propose to introduce it.