South Africans not using money-saving day hospitals

Despite spiralling healthcare costs‚ private medical aid patients are not making significant use of well-equipped day hospitals to reduce the cost of treatment in South Africa.

Available locally but almost unheard of‚ there are over 40 day hospitals in the country which could offer hope for cash-strapped patients who need same-day surgical procedures.

But despite the cost-saving benefits‚ day hospitals — which can be used for a range of surgical procedures from plastic surgery to gynaecological procedures — are being under-utilised.

Bert von Wiellich‚ head of the Day Hospital Association of South Africa (Dhasa)‚ said the country was lagging behind the rest of the world.

 “But we are experiencing an upswing in patient numbers as the crippling cost increases forces medical schemes and patients to search for viable alternatives to acute hospital treatments where possible‚” he said.

“Many of these day hospitals are running at occupancies between 30% and 50% and have the capacity to double their volumes‚” said Von Wiellich.

Dhasa said there were benefits associated with accessing these facilities‚ including the fact that they offered a safe and less traumatic surgical environment and that healthy patients were not exposed to hospital-acquired infections.

The association said that medical aids had accepted and recognised that day hospitals were an “important alternative” to reduce costs for patients.

 “The compound hospital cost escalation of 15% per annum is unaffordable and is not sustainable in the current healthcare environment‚ ” said Bibi Goss-Ross of Advanced Health‚ which manages day hospitals in several cities.

“But what most South Africans are not aware of are options available to them which can have a direct bearing on hospitalisation expenses. Some 70% of surgical procedures‚ currently done in acute hospitals‚ can be safely performed in a day surgery facility‚” said Goss-Ross.

Day hospitals across the world are being accessed by millions of patients for surgery that does not require being admitted for a costly hospital stay.

According to Goss-Ross only 13% of all local surgical procedures — ranging from plastic surgery‚ gynaecological‚ general‚ orthopaedics‚ urology‚ dental and ophthalmic procedures — are conducted in day hospitals compared to an international figure of 70%.

“Several factors influence the cost model of day hospitals: no larger catering facilities‚ no ICU or specialised theatre‚ no overnight beds to cater for and no after hours staff costs‚ emergency unit and more reasonable per minute theatre fees compared to an acute facility.”

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