Originally published: Oct 11 2011
How’s this for decadent. I am sitting in Sunninghill hospital, a private hospital in Johannesburg. I have been here a couple of times before, the normal stuff: birth of my children, stitches in my children, gunshot wound, normal run-of-the-mill living in Joburg stuff. The difference tonight is that I am here, unprotected, vulnerable, naked … I don’t have the comfort blanket of medical aid on this visit. Well that’s a bit of a lie, I do have medical aid but I am here with with my domestic who, as the bulk of domestics in this country, does not have medical aid. The choices I had are not really a choice – roll the dice with a State Hospital, or bite the bullet and assume the brace position, because this is going to a painful exercise (not as much as the pain that our domestic is in), but financially painful.
I feel likes mobile ATM, I have done nothing in the last 3 hours, but wait around and be asked by all “… How will you be paying…?) and when I say cash, I don’t know if the look of derision I get is one of “you poor bastard” or “serves you right for employing a Malawian”.
4 hours and 2 grand later and I am still waiting for the results of the x-rays, bloods and the fraud department of StandardBank to call me to enquire about the unusual purchases on the credit card. I am in terror of what it is going to cost me in parking fees when I try to leave this cash consuming beast. Bring on a National Healthcare System I say.
The first R1 000 went on two separate payments, why I have no idea, actually I do, I asked: R400 went on the privilege to see a doctor, no prob, just a bit more than my GP. R600 was for a bed fee … Yes the doctor has to see you somewhere, apparently the parking lot is not an acceptable venue, so for the privilege of sitting in a 4×4 cubicle, on a bed – 600 ZAR. Cash thank you very much. Bloods tests for Malaria, close on R700 and R400 for 2 chest x-rays.
So just over 2 grand to get a numb ass from the crappy chair I was consigned to(I was tempted to sleep on the bed but our domestic really needed it more than me).
The diagnosis doesn’t look good, for my domestic or my bank balance. Malaria will mean admission. I gingerly enquired about the cost of this. I waited a few minutes while the staff tried to find the price list, of this the most expensive drive-thru around. They found it. I tried to break the ice with some poor cliche and again took the brace position, tightly clenching my ass-cheeks.
“Did you get that Sir”?
It was like a movie in slow motion. My mind had blocked out the beginning part of what she said. My numbed ass had suddenly shifted to my head for a brief moment. I am told that the body has an automatic reflex action, that if it knows it is going to be hurt, it anaethitises itself against the pending pain.
“excuse me” I said, my knuckles gripping the counter for support.
“And that is cash upfront sir”
Can we go back a few frames … What was the amount?
Thank god there was a wheelchair I could fall into as my knees buckled, but no, the thought of it being a pay-as-you-go wheelchair made my grip on the counter even firmer, my resolve steadfast.
“is he going to be admitted for the month?”
“2 nights sir at R1 800 per night excluding medication”
“I do get change don’t I”
“that would depend on the medication”
Gulp, was a gulp free I asked myself? It must be. If I do it slowly no one will see.
To be continued…