There is a persistent and potentially dangerous narrative that medical aid schemes exist purely to rip off their members, writes Business Day associate editor Bronwyn Nortje.
The fledgling day hospital sector in South Africa is looking to emulate its international counterparts by rapidly rolling out facilities that can offer accessible and affordable private healthcare to a broader public. Business Day reports that according to the Day Hospital Association of SA, in the Western Cape alone 10 new day clinic facilities are scheduled for development by 2017.
Overall there are slightly more than 50 day hospitals in the country, and industry sources reckon the number is expected to grow 10%-15% a year if medical schemes provide the right support. The association estimates that by 2020 SA could have 80-100 day hospitals by 2020. It contends that the private healthcare industry needs a more cost-effective service and believes medical aid schemes could use day hospitals to develop affordable medical aid packages.
In addition, the body points out that day hospitals favour cash-paying patients and offer state patients surgical services more cost effectively than other private service providers.
The report says the day surgery model has rapidly developed in the US, Canada and several European countries since the early 1970s, driven by country-specific needs such as lack of availability of care, ageing populations, economic constraints and the increasingly litigious nature of medicine. In 2010, day surgery made up 63.5% of all surgical procedure in the US, as reported by the American Hospital Association.
But, the report says, being part of the day hospital wave comes with regulatory and administrative challenges. Securing licences in areas that require a day hospital is the biggest hurdle. And with profitability for day hospital facilities mostly dependent on the volume of patients treated, acquiring specialists remains a challenge. Advanced Health CEO Carl Grillenberger says that to secure sufficient doctor support the firm urges medical schemes to pay additional fees to doctors who attend to their surgical interventions in day surgery facilities.