I don’t remember ever going to the doctor as a kid. I remember being given the vilest of vile things on the few occasions when I was ill.
Lewensessens, Bors Druppels, Witdulsies and Versterk Druppels were among the horrible stuff I was made to force down my throat.
I’m convinced that’s the reason why us kids never got sick often back then.
The minute your mother took out that Behoedmiddel, causing you to throw up in your mouth a little, meant you were sommer immediately better.
I used to go with my mom to a doctor in Bonteheuwel and I remember having to wait for an eternity before she eventually saw him.
But nobody seemed to mind, and as far as I can remember, nobody died.
Whenever relatives were hospitalised, it was almost always at Groote Schuur and occasionally Tygerberg or Somerset hospitals.
The very first time I visited a doctor for myself, was as an adult and it was probably for something silly like the flu.
It didn’t strike me then how I had managed to survive up until that point without any professional medical intervention whatsoever.
My first children were born in government hospitals, so up until my mid-twenties, the idea of private hospitals was foreign to me.
When I got my first proper job as a journalist, it came with medical aid and only then did this privileged convenience start to sink in.
So for the last 20 years, I have always had medical aid, mostly paid for by the companies I worked for. Recently I changed the way I work and for the first time, I had to start paying for my own medical aid. Or did I?
I very nearly needed an ambulance when I found out that a basic plan for my family would cost me close to R10 000 a month.
That’s an obscene amount of money; more than most South Africans earn a month.
How did this happen to us? I think it came with the promise of luxury; the idea of being cared for by supposedly THE best specialist in the field, while lazing in a private room, watching satellite TV from a remote-controlled bed, in between sponge baths by beauty queen nurses.
It’s an irresistible fantasy, which when combined with fear, can be potent enough to part you from your money.
I have written about insurances before. Medical aids are just another form of this.
Like household insurance that preys on your fear of being burgled, so medical aids rely on your fear of needing urgent medical attention and being left to die in a dirty, smelly corridor by inept male nurses who are on their lunch break.
I have had to deal with state hospitals lately and I have been pleasantly surprised.
So I am considering moving back to state health services.
I realise as private health care is becoming more and more unaffordable, more of us may be forced into making the same decision.
In the long run, the demand will mean the best specialists will be found at Tygerberg again; Groote Schuur will have excellent private rooms and Somerset will have mouth-watering meals alweer.
But for now, although medical aids have announced a major increase for the new year, I think the fear will make sure that somehow people find the money, even if it’s just for a basic hospital plan.
That may include me.
This time, but at least it has got me thinking about going back to the old ways.
Jamaika Gemmer or Duiwelsdrek anyone?