November 2009 – Digging In

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November 2009 – Digging In

We are now a couple of months into G-LAB Africa GHD and things just keep getting more interesting. We have received confirmation that we and ClickDiagnostics will be working with the Mvezo Tribe for our pilot remote diagnostics clinic in the Umtata Region of the Eastern Cape. The Eastern Cape is South Africa’s poorest province and the healthcare situation within the region is dire. While there is approximately one doctor for every 650 patients in the Western Cape (just a few hundred miles west), there is one doctor for every 30,000 patients in the Eastern Cape. As a result, the healthcare infrastructure is poor and many patients have to travel long distances and wait in long lines to get treatment if they do at all.

The Mvezo region is perhaps best known as Nelson Mandela’s birthplace and, while not everything has yet been finalized, we will be working with a couple of his grandchildren in order to develop a sustainable and affordable healthcare solution for the region. By addressing cervical cancer and TB, two very common opportunistic infections, we hope to rollout the Click mobile diagnostics technology and create a sort of case study that seeks to prove that this healthcare delivery model is not just good for now but is sustainable in the long term.

In class we have heard from several other great guest speakers and have studied several cases of interest. We are currently working on our Interim Research Report on South Africa and the existing healthcare system.  Researching another country’s healthcare system has been an extremely educational task and actually helps us understand our own much better. We have also found some very interesting facts as well. Despite the fact that private health sector in South Africa covers 16% of the population, it spends 1100% more than the government does on the public health sector. What this translates to, is the fact that for every dollar spent on a patient in the public sector, 72 dollars is spent on a patient in the private sector. When it comes to medical care in South Africa, there is no gray area; there are those that can afford to receive decent medical care and those who cannot. Unfortunately for many, the latter group is far greater than the former. Among all nations, South Africa has one of the widest disparities between its rich and poor.

In exciting news: we have all booked our tickets to Johannesburg now. We will be arriving January 2 and staying for approximately 3 weeks. During that time, we will split out time between Johannesburg and Mvezo in the Eastern Cape which is just a plane and car ride away. In the coming weeks, we will be finishing up our research report and our draft business plan for the clinics. We will write once more before we leave but we hope to update this blog on a daily basis while in South Africa! Until then, we will be trying to understand as much as we can about the country and its people and health system. Check back for our December update!