South Africa is home to some of the largest and most advanced hospitals on the African continent. These major medical centers offer state-of-the-art facilities, cutting-edge medical technology, and highly skilled healthcare professionals.
In this article, we will countdown the top 10 biggest hospitals in South Africa based on bed capacity, patient numbers, range of services, and medical specialties offered.
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An Overview of South Africa’s Healthcare System
South Africa has both a robust public healthcare system and a growing private healthcare sector. The public system serves the majority of the population but suffers from underfunding and resource constraints. The private system, utilized by wealthier citizens and those with private medical insurance, operates highly advanced hospitals and clinics.
South Africa’s best hospitals are found mainly in the large cities like Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban. Rural areas continue to face shortages of medical facilities and staff. However, the major urban hospitals attract patients from across South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa seeking quality specialized care.
The Top 10 Biggest Hospitals in South Africa
1. Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Johannesburg
With approximately 3,200 beds, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is one of the largest hospitals in the world. As South Africa’s 3rd biggest hospital, it serves more than 3.5 million people in Soweto and surrounding areas.
The hospital handles nearly 10,000 admissions per month on average. It has an internationally respected trauma center and sees between 120,000 to 150,000 yearly emergency visits.
Baragwanath offers virtually every major medical specialty from cardiology and oncology to pediatric surgery. It also serves as the main teaching hospital for the University of the Witwatersrand medical school.
2. Steve Biko Academic Hospital, Pretoria
As one of Africa’s premier academic hospitals, Steve Biko Academic Hospital has a capacity of approximately 1,200 beds. It is attached to the University of Pretoria’s medical school and serves as a leading research and teaching facility.
With more than 6,000 staff members, the hospital handles over 10,000 operations, sees 1.5 million outpatients, and delivers 9,000 babies per year. It offers advanced treatments across a wide range of specialties like oncology, neurosurgery, trauma, high-risk obstetrics, and neonatal critical care.
3. Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, Durban
Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital is the largest hospital in KwaZulu-Natal and the busiest on the entire continent. Its approximately 845 beds serve close to 1 million outpatients annually.
As South Africa’s 4th biggest hospital, it offers sophisticated diagnostic, therapeutic, and rehabilitative services. The hospital is highly renowned for its expertise in oncology, obstetrics, cardiovascular care, and organ transplants.
With cutting-edge facilities, Inkosi Albert Luthuli draws patients from across Africa seeking advanced medical treatments. It also serves as an academic teaching hospital for the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
4. Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital
Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital is a large quaternary, tertiary care center located in the heart of Johannesburg. With about 1000 beds, it is one of South Africa’s key public sector referral facilities.
The hospital delivers multidisciplinary care across a vast range of specialties. It handles approximately 300,000 outpatient visits per year for services like cardiology, neurology, oncology, high-risk obstetrics, and pediatrics.
As the main teaching site for the University of the Witwatersrand’s medical students, Charlotte Maxeke combines patient care with training the country’s next generation of healthcare providers.
5. Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town
Tygerberg Hospital, located outside Cape Town, is the largest hospital in the Western Cape province and the 2nd biggest hospital in South Africa. With 1300 beds, it serves over 2.6 million people in the metro and rural areas.
As a leading academic medical center, Tygerberg handles over 275,000 outpatients and nearly 18,500 inpatients per year. Its specialty departments include maxillofacial surgery, neurosurgery, oncology, cardiology, and critical care.
Tygerberg is globally renowned as the site where the first successful human-to-human heart transplant was performed in 1967 by Dr. Christiaan Barnard. It remains on the forefront of medical advancement as both a major referral hospital and teaching facility.
6. Universitas Academic Hospital, Bloemfontein
Universitas Academic Hospital, affiliated with the University of the Free State, is the largest hospital in central South Africa. With around 1,200 beds, it provides care to patients from across the Free State, Northern Cape, and Eastern Cape.
The hospital has an estimated 350,000 outpatient visits, 75,000 emergency visits, and 60,000 admissions per year. Its services include trauma, burns, ICU, oncology, rheumatology, neurosurgery, psychiatry, and nuclear medicine.
Universitas also houses the only kidney transplant unit in the central region of the country. As part of its academic mission, the hospital provides training to future doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and allied health professionals.
7. Dr. George Mukhari Academic Hospital, Ga-Rankuwa
Located northwest of Pretoria, Dr. George Mukhari Academic Hospital is one of the major tertiary referral facilities in northern South Africa. With approximately 1,500 beds, it provides care to millions of people across Gauteng and neighboring provinces.
This leading medical teaching facility offers specialized services in obstetrics, pediatrics, psychiatry, ophthalmology, endoscopy, critical care, and 24-hour emergency. The hospital handles around 160,000 outpatients, 9,500 deliveries, and 7,000 caesarean sections per year.
Dr. George Mukhari partners with nearby Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University to train future healthcare professionals and conduct critical research.
8. Kimberley Hospital Complex, Kimberley
The Kimberley Hospital Complex in the Northern Cape province is the largest medical facility in the region. With around 980 beds, it provides care to patients from across the province and beyond.
The hospital handles approximately 250,000 outpatients, 30,000 admissions, and 12,000 operations annually. Its specialty departments cover a comprehensive range of services, including trauma, ICU, general surgery, obstetrics, pediatrics, oncology, ophthalmology, and psychiatry.
As the main academic teaching hospital for the University of the Free State’s medical students in the Northern Cape, it plays a vital role in expanding access to quality healthcare. The hospital also enables clinical research aimed at addressing the population’s unique health needs.
9. Pelonomi Regional Hospital, Bloemfontein
Located in the capital city of Bloemfontein, the approximately 950-bed Pelonomi Regional Hospital is the 2nd largest hospital in the Free State province. It provides medical care to the Mangaung metro area and serves as the referral hub for smaller district hospitals across the region.
With cutting-edge equipment and specialist services, Pelonomi handles around 160,000 outpatients and nearly 33,000 inpatients per year. Its departments include general surgery, ENT, trauma, obstetrics, pediatrics, oncology, and psychiatry.
The hospital also operates an internationally respected burns unit. By providing advanced care closer to home, Pelonomi helps make quality healthcare more accessible for Free State residents.
10. Polokwane Provincial Hospital, Polokwane
As the largest hospital in the Limpopo province, Polokwane Provincial Hospital has around 850 beds that serve patients from across the region. It handles approximately 300,000 outpatients and nearly 15,000 admissions per year.
Polokwane offers a comprehensive range of medical and surgical services. These include urology, orthopedics, ENT, pediatrics, maternity, cardiology, oncology, trauma, ophthalmology, and 24-hour emergency.
The hospital also operates the only radiation therapy unit in Limpopo, making critical cancer treatment available to patients closer to home. As the province’s major academic teaching hospital, Polokwane likewise plays an important role in developing Limpopo’s future healthcare workforce.
Key Takeaways of South Africa’s Largest Hospitals
- South Africa’s top hospitals are found mainly in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, and Bloemfontein.
- The country’s largest hospitals have 1000+ beds and serve over 1 million outpatients annually.
- Leading facilities like Chris Hani Baragwanath, Steve Biko Academic, and Inkosi Albert Luthuli provide advanced specialty care.
- Major academic hospitals double as medical teaching facilities to train South Africa’s next generation of healthcare providers.
- Large regional hospitals increase access to care with a broad range of medical, surgical, and diagnostic services.
- South Africa’s biggest hospitals enable the country to provide world-class health services and life-saving treatments.