Your guide to health insurance in Namibia
Thinking of moving to Southern Africa? Located on the Southwest coast of Africa, the Republic of Namibia is one of the biggest but least densely populated countries. In a single country, you will find a wide spectrum of gorgeous landscapes, from deserts to tropical forests. Interested to learn more about the healthcare system in Namibia before you depart? In this Pacific Prime guide, we’ll give you a brief snapshot of the healthcare system, as well as how to access it as an expat.
Namibia has a dual system that comprises public and private healthcare providers. Both provide medical aid to 82% of the population and the remaining 18% respectively. This, in part, is due to the country’s high-income inequality. Most citizens are unable to access the expensive private health services and instead rely on the public system. Nevertheless, the quality of healthcare in Namibia is up to par with international standards.
Public health care is widely available to all Namibians. Healthcare is easily accessible in Namibia, with 76% of the population living within a 10km radius of a healthcare facility. Nevertheless, if you live in the city, you will have a comparatively easier time accessing medical institutions than rural dwellers. Moreover, the public health sector suffers from long waiting times and general absenteeism among medical personnel. It also places an extraordinary burden on public finances.
The four-tiered health system
Here, the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) is the provider of public health services. It operates a four-tiered health system, consisting of primary healthcare (PHC) sites, district hospitals, intermediate hospitals, and a referral hospital. In general, you will find that the higher the tier is, the more specialized care they could provide.
Here are the 4 types of medical institutions you will find in Namibia:
- Clinics (PHC) are staffed with nurses and pharmacy technicians or assistants.
- Health centers (PHC) are staffed with doctors, pharmacists, and nurses.
- District hospitals refer their patients to intermediate hospitals if they need specialist care.
- Intermediate hospitals refer patients to central hospitals.
- Central Hospital in Windhoek serves only the most medically complex patients.
To put it simply, you have to be diagnosed at one of the PHC providers before you could be referred to other institutions.
Private healthcare system
There are a whopping 844 private health facilities where 72% of the doctors and a little less than 50% of registered nurses work in Namibia. All patients are required to pay out-of-pocket in the private sector. What’s more, certain specialized services like organ transplantations are only available from private medical centers. As a result, these medical procedures are inaccessible to those who cannot afford private care.
Quality of healthcare varies according to your location
Do you live in the Namibian capital of Windhoek or a large town? If that’s the case, you’re in luck. Countless medical facilities and medical practitioners here are comparable to international standards. However, outside of densely populated areas, the quality of healthcare tends to vary. This drop in quality is particularly apparent in rural areas.
State-run hospitals are available in all major towns. However, only healthcare centers and mobile clinics operate in smaller towns, villages, and rural settlements.
Specifically, Windhoek boasts two public and three private hospitals. Approximately 80% of Namibia’s medical specialists are based in the city. Remember to bring enough cash, however. Many doctors, hospitals, and private clinics will expect up-front payment in cash, regardless of whether or not you possess health insurance covering Namibia.
Don’t worry too much if you forget to bring your medications with you. A wide range of medicines and drugs can be purchased in Windhoek. Moreover, pharmacists here strictly adhere to the standards set by the American Food and Drug organization with all imported medication controlled for distribution by the local Drug Control Board.
The need for medical evacuations
A sparse and widespread population in Namibia has resulted in more air evacuation than in most other countries. Medical emergency evacuation services extend to all corners of Namibia. They are supported by a well-developed air industry, landing strips, and a well-maintained road network. Serious medical problems that cannot be treated in Windhoek require a short air-evacuation to South Africa. Most cases requiring emergency evacuation are related to road accidents, mostly on rural gravel roads by expats who are unfamiliar with the local driving conditions.
We highly recommend all expatriates to secure a comprehensive expat insurance policy with an emergency evacuation benefit in case of accidents.
Health risks in Namibia
From traffic accidents to HIVs, there are a number of health risks you might have to face. Here is a non-exhaustive list of the precautions you should take when traveling to Namibia.
Visitors to Namibia are advised to seek professional medical advice before traveling, preferably from a doctor specializing in travel medicine. Vaccinations for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Polio, and Rabies are recommended. Cholera outbreaks do occur from time to time and while mains water is purified and safe, visitors should only use boiled or bottled water; ice should be avoided in drinks.
The three major diseases
Namibia suffers from three major diseases: HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. The HIV/AIDS epidemic is a major problem in Namibia. Although infection rates are much lower than most of its neighbors in Sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 15% of the population is infected by HIV.
On the other hand, Malaria is prevalent throughout the northern half of the country. Thus, you should take adequate precautions against the disease when traveling to areas north of Windhoek.
Research has shown the risk of contracting malaria is 14.5% greater here if a person is also infected with HIV. The risk of death from malaria is also raised by approximately 50% with a simultaneous HIV infection. As a result, a large proportion of the government health budget is set aside for HIV/AIDS and malaria treatment.
Who should you contact in emergencies?
Individuals requiring emergency services should dial 211-111. The International SOS (ISOS) operates a 24-hour emergency center in Windhoek, including a fleet of air ambulances and dedicated road response vehicles.
Protect yourself with private health insurance
Want to avoid long waiting times and insufficient public healthcare services in Namibia? You should secure an international private health insurance plan. Here, the healthcare system is of high-quality and easily-accessible, but only if you live in the city.
We would also recommend an insurance plan that covers your repatriation costs. If you are injured, you may want to receive the best care for your condition outside of the country. In most cases, the cost to transfer you back home can be incredibly steep!
Pacific Prime has over two decades of experience as brokers in the insurance industry. We are committed to finding the perfect health insurance plan to suit your budget and needs. Most importantly, our highly-trained experts provide free quotations, leverage our close partnerships with all major insurers, and have an extensive portfolio that consists of all the best plans. Contact us today so we can help!