Dying in Joburg a costly venture

Dying in Joburg a costly venture

Terminally ill patients in Johannesburg will spend about R63,000 in their last days on end of life care – almost three times more patients in some coastal towns, according to Discovery Health’s CEO Dr Jonathan Broomberg.

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TB patient
A recent Discovery Health survey that found that East London residents spent about R21,000 per patient – a small sum in comparison to those living in Johannesburg. (File photo)

According to Broomberg, terminally ill South Africans and their families are spending more on end of life care than ever before.

What families pay to extend their lives of their loved ones varies widely across the country, according to a recent Discovery Health survey that found that East London residents spent about R21,000 per patient – a small sum in comparison to those living in Johannesburg.

“We are seeing prolonged end of life stays with many of Discovery Health’s clients dying in hospital and it is worrying,” said Discovery Health Deputy CEO Ryan Noach speaking at a Johannesburg round table discussion yesterday.

These increasing costs come at a time when many families are already spending almost 10 percent of household income on health, according to Statistics South Africa’s 2013 General Household Survey.[quote float= right]“It doesn’t make sense for a terminally ill patient to spend their last few weeks on a ventilator.”

While Broomberg said it was not clear what was fuelling wide variations in end of life spending, he said the growing costs of dying should prompt tough conversations between physicians and families about what a person’s final days will be like.

“There is a growing debate globally and locally about quality of life at the end of life,” said Broomberg. “It doesn’t make sense for a terminally ill patient to spend their last few weeks on a ventilator.”

Broomberg added that scenarios like this had questionable benefits for patients and health systems alike. Meanwhile, patients’ willingness to explore alternatives like hospice is often overlooked, he told Health-e News.

“What matters is the dignity of the patient,” he said. “There are hospices and nursing homes, but nobody asks those questions.” – Health-e News