Cynthia Salgado Design
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Our society is not human-centered


No one stops to wonder about how broken is the medical system worldwide, unless it directly affects them. I am one of such people, who unfortunately had to see the ugly face of insurance companies and unethical medical practitioners to understand how important is universal health care.

I come from a country where social security is a national treasure. The people in my home country take for granted the CCSS, an institution created in 1941 protected by the state and funded by all workers. Thanks to this institution almost all babies have their full schedule of vaccinations, medical care is free for all, there are campaigns to fumigate during Dengue season, and more. Primary education is also free, and high-school and public universities offer quality education for very little money. So this is a country that has taken care of the safety needs of its people according to Marlow. It is no coincidence that having these needs covered makes Costa Rica one of the happiest places in the world.

Now, I came to South Africa and the landscape was different. For starters, I've never met in my life so many people on antidepressants. I also noticed just getting settled here how prevalent are insurance companies. When I was alone it didn't really mattered, but when our baby came I noticed the harsh reality of not having a social security system.

My baby was born premature, and with congenital heart disease. She required open heart surgery, which came with lots of complications, and spent 6 of her first 12 months in hospital. Because of the complications during surgery she now wears a pacemaker and has a "mickey" (feeding tube). Soon we started to work and live only to pay for her medical needs. And I realized that this country really has a long way ahead at taking care of its citizens (and visitors). Now that I am "back to school" I realized how many of my basic needs have been cut down because of a system that it is not human centered. South Africa's social system is not human centered, and the condition of my baby could have been an easier roadtrip if only I was able to go back to my country in time. Going back to Marlow's scale of needs and how the cost of healthcare in a foreign country almost stopped us from living with dignity:

1. I didn't have any security: I had to leave my job, one that I had for 10 years as a designer, to take care of my baby, therefore, bills started to accumulate. Debt started to crept in. I had to deal with an insurance company who refused to give me disability cover because it was not me who had the heart surgery. My husband's family was not supportive: this is something that South Africans learn too soon, how to be on their own and mind their own business. I beg to differ, "no man is an island".

2. The friends I though I had didn't show up once during my baby's recovery, an awful time for my husband and me. The support we had was from my country, again, a place where community is a valuable and where people are encouraged to be an active member of it.

3. My husband was diagnosed with severe depression and myself with anxiety. Again, lack of support and friendship can do that to people, plus a system that always has a hand in your pocket.

4. Finally, there was no time for creativity or activities of leisure.

Needless to say this has impacted my life immensely. I met many other families with even worst situations because they had to go to public hospitals. The way the medical system works here seems unethical to me. And it almost destroyed our lives: it certainly made us sadder and made our lives, that were already being hit by all that happened to our baby, even worse.

So this is my takeaway:

  • No man is an island. Children should be taught how to be sociable and be of service from a young age. I really don’t think any society could benefit with a philosophy of “us” and “them"

  • Social security needs to be universal, and it doesn’t have to be funded by the government. It can be funded by the citizens. The way South African health system is developed (with private and high-end hospital vs public, dirty hospitals) doesn’t contribute to the well being of all of its citizens, and makes a basic need (health) something unaffordable for many. Insurance companies decide what is worthy of their coverage and what is not.

  • Happiness should be the ultimate goal of people and governments.