Day Hospitals: A Solution for Cheaper Hospitalisation in South Africa?

day hospital

If South Africa follows international trends, day hospitals will become routine for minor surgeries and diagnostic procedures.

Day hospitals can provide significant cost savings for both public and private healthcare sectors. They’re a convenient and user-friendly alternative for patients.

The question is – are day hospitals a solution for cheaper hospitalisation in South Africa?

Day hospitals gaining popularity

On a global scale, minor surgeries are increasingly performed in day hospitals. In the UK and USA, 70% of surgeries take place in low-cost facilities with limited infrastructure, equipment and support staff.

In South Africa, hospital costs account for more than 40% of total medical scheme expenditure. Transitioning to a cheaper alternative makes financial sense for medical schemes.

Performing minor surgeries and procedures that require minimal aftercare and recovery time at day hospitals reduces costs, enabling medical aid schemes to levy more affordable premiums.

At present, South Africa lags behind the international 50/50 split between acute and day hospitals, but this is set to change.

Major medical aid providers, including Bonitas Medical Scheme, have already integrated day hospitals and clinics into their scheme networks. They’ve negotiated competitive rates with doctors and specialists. More schemes are expected to follow suit.

Examples of day hospital vs. traditional hospital costs in South Africa

The estimated cost savings of routine surgeries in day hospitals are:

  • eyelid surgery – 28%
  • colonoscopy – 15%
  • grommet surgery – 15%
  • tonsillectomies – 11% (adults) 13% (children)
  • circumcision (14%).

DHA proposes medical aids enforce day hospital use

The Day Hospital Association (DHA) has proposed medical aid schemes in South Africa introduce the mandatory use of day hospitals and impose co-payments on non-compliant members.

Considering the benefits – for the schemes, the healthcare sector and consumers – the next step is to formalise and regulate the role of same-day surgical facilities in South Africa’s private sector.

Factors limiting use of day hospitals 

What’s constraining the use of day hospitals in South Africa? Firstly, doctor referrals are still overwhelmingly directed at traditional hospitals.

Most scheme members aren’t aware of same-day facilities. Many who do are reluctant to undergo a procedure at a facility that’s perceived to have limited resources. Many people fear there’ll be insufficient skills, equipment and staffing to deal with post-surgical complications.

When a day hospital isn’t suitable 

A day hospital isn’t suitable for surgeries that need sophisticated high-tech equipment and intensive after care. High-risk patients require a hospital where high-care and intensive-care wards are easily accessible.

At IFC, we offer informed, objective advice about South African medical aid schemes and the future of day hospitals. We can assist you in joining the scheme that best suits your needs and budget. Contact us for more information or to discuss your needs.

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