It’s true; I am a snob, especially when it’s 2.15 am and I can’t breathe, which is what happened to me early on Saturday morning. I had caught a flu and suddenly it went to my asthmatic chest. I needed to go onto a nebuliser and it needed to happen quickly so I had to choose a private medical facility. I needed to know that I could arrive and go straight for treatment. So off Big Friendly screeched to the Cape Town Medi Clinic. I was totally on the right track; there was only a sleepy guard in casualties when we drove up in the rain.

Now here’s the thing. The little receptionist’s first question was “How?”, and she wasn’t asking how I had got sick. It was card or cash. Before she had my name or even my condition she needed to make sure I could and would pay. You need to see a doctor before they treat and that is a standard fee. Added to that is the cost of whatever the treatment is. It was a whack, let me tell you. I have not one single complaint about the treatment I got, the facilities, the kind and alert staff or the sexy Dr Naidoo who was shocked that my GP had not given me an antibiotic earlier on Friday. On the whole it was a totally professional operation and I got everything I needed, including my breath back.

What I left with too was the cold, harsh reality that I was one of those who would find a way to afford that kind of treatment and care. A state hospital was not an option I even considered, even though I am a free lance somebody without medical aid. And I was struck by how few of us have those options.