Day 2: The Neoliberalisation of Health

Activity 6: The neoliberalisation of healthcare: South Africa in crisis

Day 2: The Neoliberalisation of Health

Activity 6: The neoliberalisation of healthcare: South Africa in crisis

3 hours:

1 hour 30 minutes (Task 1 – case studies analysis and presentations preparation)
1 hour (Task 2 – plenary presentations and discussion)
30 minutes (Task 3 – plenary video viewing, paired buzzing and closing plenary discussion)

Aims | To help us to:

  • Consider how the neoliberalisation of healthcare in South Africa is manifesting in South Africa and the current crisis of the South African health system through ‘live’ case studies
  • Refine our perspectives on the question of ‘health equity’ in South Africa through critical engagement

Task 1 Group work

Case Studies on current examples of the healthcare crisis in South Africa

(1 hour 30 minutes)

Working in small groups, read through the stories of the recent case that your group is assigned on a ‘real’ South African healthcare incident. Some groups may prefer to first read alone, while others may prefer to have them read aloud in the group. You have a maximum of 35 minutes for reading. You then have 40 minutes to answer the questions plus 15 minutes to finalise your group’s presentation.

In building your group’s understanding of what happened, you need not limit yourself to the sources provided. You may also do your own additional quick desk top research (wifi and time permitting) and find more sources to deepen your analysis and perspective on this incident. After you have read the case studies through the links below, engage the following questions

  1. What happened? What is the problem?
  2. What is the macro (or bigger) politics at play? What systemic or structural issues are being presented?
  3. What socioeconomic issues or problems are presented?
  4. Who are the victims? Who suffers most?
  5. Is there anything we can we do about this, as activists, as leaders, as change makers? If yes, what? If not, why not?
Important alert: Your group’s 5-minute presentation to the plenary does NOT require you to simply present these answers. Step back from your answers and support your presenter to summarise in two ways:
  • Briefly explain the problem that occurred in your case study
  • Explain what the underlying policy choices are that are key drivers of this problem and whether this links up in any way with our early discussions on neoliberalism.
Tips for reading: Some articles or papers are long, so read the introduction, then skim-read headings to the end, then read the recommendations and conclusion.

Group 1 Case Study

Ambulance Crisis in the Eastern Cape


Group 2 Case study

Human Resource Struggles in the South African Department of Health


Group 3 Case Study

The TAC and the Gauteng Department of Health Crisis


Group 4 Case Study

Healthcare workers in South Africa


Web links confirmed/adjusted 12 May 2022

Task 2

Plenary presentations on the analysis of the Case Studies

(45 minutes)

Each group’s presenter will offer a brief 5-minute summarised report back that presents the case study problem very briefly and then explains whether this problem was caused by neoliberal policy or not, with careful reasoning and explanation either way. Plenary engagement will be limited to questions of clarity with fuller discussion reserved for the closing plenary discussion.

Task 3

Plenary reflection on ‘Why is health equity so elusive in South Africa today?’

(45 minutes)

To synthesise our analysis and reflections on this case study, we will begin by watching a YouTube clip in plenary from the People’s Health Movement. It reflects on neoliberalism and the global struggle for access to health.

We will then consider how these various cases and the video either challenge or confirm our perspectives on the problems of health in South Africa today, and the extent to which a framing of neoliberalism assists in clarifying cause and effect, and what this all means for activists and leadership for health equity.