The stark contrast between the public and private health sectors

This week has been tough. After 24 hours of nearly every symptom you can imagine, and mysterious insect bites on my ankles, I decided to take a trip to the hospital.
I didn’t know what to expect. The week prior I spent time in some of the remotest parts of South Africa visiting hospitals, where I learnt that the rural citizens dependent on the public system were simply not afforded the necessary services, let alone luxuries, of the private system. They were either missing, below the acceptable standard, or located an incredibly long way from their homes.
For me, in Johannesburg, I walked just 50m to the nearest hospital, which was private. As I arrived, my experience was first class. Within 10 mins my vitals were measured by an assistant, within 60 mins my blood tested, immediately after which I had assessment by a GP, and medication prescribed.
After I learnt that the GP holidays in the rural region I recently visited, I couldn’t help but think: “What would it take for you to relocate to that region where they need your services the most?”
Then I recalled the reality the we learned prior. Due to the needs of the communities, and extreme staff shortages, medical professionals experience enormous pressure, isolation and often the lack of support needed. It’s not only important to ensuring the right health worker gets to the right place at the right time. It’s also about supporting them in a way that brings them personal fulfilment in their role.

Week one: “Where there are no health workers, there is no healthcare delivery”

As I sat in the first meeting with Africa Health Placements, I immediately knew that this was the organisation I wanted to work with. With a passion in the CEO’s eyes, yet subtlety to his voice, he explained “where there are no health workers, there is no healthcare delivery”. For me, nothing could be truer. It was clear to me that his organisation understood healthcare, understood the challenges of South Africa, and understood the responsibilities and opportunities for governments, NGOs, and organisations like his to help provide equitable health services to every citizen of South Africa.
African Health Placements, better known as AHP, is a social profit organisation focussed on improving the placements of health workers in the rural regions of South Africa. Its mission is to address the vast inequalities of healthcare service delivery across the country by focussing on health worker recruitment, retention and planning to regions that need it most.
The first week of the Watson Health Corporate Services Corp has been extraordinarily eye opening. It’s been a privilege to work with AHP to help contribute to solving one of South Africa’s greatest challenges in health service delivery. Data, and the higher value proposition of analytics, has the potential to revolutionise the planning and delivery of health services. This is what excites me as an IBMer.