expat health care in South Africa, Moving to Johannesburg

South Africa has some of the most well-trained doctors and medical professionals in the world, but unfortunately, while you’ll definitely find adequate care in many public facilities, most public healthcare in the country is unfortunately understaffed and underresourced.

This means that you’ll need to set up a healthcare investment such as medical aid or a hospital plan to make use of private, and more expensive, medical facilities. 

There are a number of different providers and packages, so it’s really about doing your research and finding out what will work best for you and your family, if you have one.

In general, medical aid schemes offer three kinds of plans:

  1. Comprehensive: These plans cover all medical expenses, including routine visits to a health professional.
  2. Network: A network plan is more affordable, but will mean that you can only make use of certain medical service providers which are part of the scheme’s network, which will require research on your part, to make sure that you can be reimbursed. 
  3. Hospital Plans: These plans generally cover only medical emergencies and planned hospital visits/procedures, and it’s advisable to take out an additional gap cover policy to make up for the potential shortfall between what your medical aid will cover and the actual cost.

Some professional industries offer their own medical aid packages, for example ProfMed for professionals with certain qualification criteria, GEMS for government employees and CAMAF for Chartered Accounts. Depending on what industry you work in, there may be a particular medical scheme that would work better for you, but this will be a matter of research and finding out what’s available to you specifically.



While local packages might be more affordable, there are global health plan options for expats who move regularly, and travel frequently, some of the global programmes are run in conjunction with a local company:



Run in conjunction with Hollard



One of the most common local options is Discovery, which you’ll notice advertising for in many places as they offer a range of benefits, from discounts and rewards programmes at gyms, at the cinema and when purchasing flights online from certain airline companies.

Be aware that with many Discovery packages, you will only be able to make use of specific service providers so do your research before visiting a medical professional/facility to make sure that you will be reimbursed for your claim.


Great tool to use to compare options is - Hippo

The main hospitals that majority of expats use are Sandton Medi clinic and  Life Fourways Hospital 

For more advice on doctors and recommended practitioners or medical aid advice ask your Local Assistant.  


In many cases, depending on what medical aid you have, be prepared to pay upfront and then claim back from your medical aid, or expect to do research on which specific doctor or hospital to use as some medical aids are very specific about which services they approve. 

We have a great system to stay on top of all your medical expenses, that you can access through the Ultimate Expat File on Evernote - Click Here for more information.  

For intensive procedures, it’s advisable to get approval from your medical aid upfront, to avoid any unanticipated costs down the line, as claiming back from medical aid can be a lengthy process. Always be sure to get a detailed receipt.

NOTE: Dentists and orthodontics sometimes aren’t covered by medical aid.


To make sure you comply with local health regulations, make sure you are immunized against the following: Hepatitis B, DTP, MMR, and Polio

You might also require a Yellow fever vaccination required when visiting certain African and South American countries. This is valid for 10 years, and you may need to show proof of vaccinations when entering South Africa from a yellow fever area, its a good idea to scan a copy of your vaccination card into your Ultimate Expat File in Evernote, so you always have access to it. 

Some diseases to be aware of also include:

HIV/AIDS: Although massive strides have been made to prevent HIV infection, with the distribution of Antiretroviral medication and free testing, HIV/Aids is still an issue in all Sub-Saharan countries, and there is still a lot of social stigma around the disease that often complicates and delays treatment.

As in any other country in the world, preventing HIV infection means having protected sex and being responsible, to also prevent the spread of other STDs, which can increase the rate of HIV infection. 

While expats don’t need to be paranoid, be aware that the topic of HIV/Aids will be something to consider and manage, especially in the workplace and when dealing with staff, as HIV positive employees are not obliged to reveal their status by law. The odds are if you are employing staff to work in your property they will have HIV.  It is good practice to send any care givers on a first aid course which will cover HIV along with all the other conditions. Please note it is very hard to contract the disease, there has to be blood to blood exchange, or sexual activity. HIV has come along way over the past 10 - 15 years and now similarly to any other long term disease, with the right medication and care you can carry on living a normal life. It is important as employers we take responsibility for supporting where we can if you notice a sudden weight lost, or getting sick often please seek out further help and advice at the very lease make sure you supply healthy food and financial support for the medication. For further information see: The Right To Care, or contact your Local Assistant 

Find a helpful outline here for HIV policy within the workplace here.  

Other diseases to be aware of are tick-bite fever and malaria, which you can get when travelling to the bush, but being aware of high risk areas and taking the necessary precautions should prevent you from getting these.


A “drug store” or pharmacy is called a chemist in South Africa, and there are individual pharmacists who run stores in some parts of the city, but these have largely been taken over by nationwide franchise stores over the last decade.

Here are some of the most popular ones, which also offer basic medical screenings and clinic facilities, and also sell food and homeware items:


NOTE: In stores like Dischem you will obliged to put prescription medication into a cage-like contraption after you get it from the medications counter, and while you make your way to pay at the main checkout till. 


In case of emergency, take note of the following numbers. Be aware that if you don’t have medical aid, an ambulance will take you straight to a public hospital and might have to wait for treatment. Its a good idea to know which hospital you would like to be taken too, plus have thought through emergency plan if you are absent and your child gets sick (we have a list of emergency numbers on the fridge, and have a process whereby if there isn't anyone present who can drive, then press our security panic button which is linked to medical response team, these guys drive around the area and so will be quickest to arrive). 

ER24 084 124
Netcare911 082 911
Hatzollah is a private not for profit organisation that services the Johannesburg Jewish community: 0860 100 101

From home phone 10111
From mobile 112

National Poison Control
0861 555 777


For routine medical checkups, you’ll be visiting a General Practitioner, or GP, as South Africans call it.

You’ll have access to a range of medical professionals, including specialists, at any private hospital, but there are many highly recommended 1-1 service providers in Johannesburg, at a range of medical service centres across the city. It is a personal choice where you decide to go, you do not have to be registered with one specific practice. 

You do need to register for specific doctors simply to get on their books should you need them in an emergency. If you have children, you will need to register them with a Paediatrician, and its also advisable to register with a gynaecologist.  

Your local assistant is able to provide further recommendations and make the bookings for you and your family. But make time to do your research online to find a doctor, or visit your nearest hospital or clinic. Your medical aid will also be able to give you a list of doctors and medical practitioners. 

Some online medical resources include:


South Africa has a number of public hospitals, some which are world renowned and serve as training facilities for local medical students. So while you might get some of the best medical care possible at a public hospital, as an expat you will most likely want to make use of private facilities for the sake of convenience and reliability.

Not all hospitals will have an emergency section, referred to as “casualty” by doctors.  The only other time likely visit a hospital is if you are visiting a medical professional who has rooms there or when you’ve have been referred to a specialist there by your GP for a planned medical procedure.

For your own information, here are some of the most well-known public hospitals in Johannesburg:

Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital (Soweto)
Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital (previously known as Johannesburg General Hospital or “Joburg Gen”)

All private hospitals in South Africa are part of a group, and there are three main ones, with varying specialties:

Netcare: Auckland Park / Park Lane
Life: (Fourways) 
Mede-Clinic: (Sandton or Morningside)