Arranging an elective in Cape Town
(Details correct as at summer 2006)
All visiting elective students come to the following departments and hospitals under
the auspices of the University of Cape Town:
GROOTE SCHUUR HOSPITAL (Observatory, Cape Town): Medicine, Surgery,
Paediatrics (Neonatology Unit), Psychiatry, Radiology, Radiation, Oncology,
Community Health, Dermatology, Anaesthesia, Cardio-thoracic Surgery, Cardiology,
Forensic Medicine, Otorhinolaryngology, Gastroenterology, Haematology,
Neurology, Neurosurgery, Emergency Unit, Ophthalmology, Orthopaedic Surgery,
Plastic Surgery and the Trauma Unit. Apply to The Elective Officer, Faculty of
Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Anzio Road, Observatory, Cape Town,
7925. Tel (021) 4066478. Fax: (021) 4066584 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
RED CROSS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL (Rondebosch, Cape Town): Paediatrics and
Child Health, Paediatric Surgery and Paediatric Trauma. Apply to The Elective
Officer, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Anzio Road,
Observatory, Cape Town, 7925. Tel (021) 4066478. Fax: (021) 4066584 E-Mail:
SOMERSET HOSPITAL (Green Point, Cape Town): Medicine, Paediatrics, Surgery.
If you wish to apply for a place at Somerset Hospital, you should write direct to, Mrs.
Susan Rodriques, The Elective Officer, Somerset Hospital, Green Point, Cape Town,
8000, Tel (21) 593 6682, e.mail: email@example.com
G F JOOSTE HOSPITAL (Manenberg, Cape Town): Surgery, Medicine, Trauma.
Please contact Mrs Estelle Petersen, P O Box 66 Manenberg 7767, Tel (21) 690 1081,
Fax (21) 691 7962, e.mail: Epeterse@pgwc.wcape.gov.za
EERSTE RIVER HOSPITAL (Eersteriver Cape Town): Surgery, Medicine, Trauma,
Paediatrics. Elective placements are arranged by Mrs Louise Geduldt or Merlene
Graham, The Elective Officer, Tel (21) 9028001, Fax (21 9028000), e.mail
VICTORIA HOSPITAL (Plumstead, Cape Town): General Surgery, Trauma and
Medicine. Elective placements are arranged by Mrs J Peare, The Elective Officer,
Victoria Hospital, Plumstead 7800, Cape Town, Tel (21) 799 1161, Fax (21 761 5108,
FRERE HOSPITAL (East London) Surgery, Medicine, Paediatrics and Obstetrics.
Please write direct to Carmen Delange, , Private Bag X9047, East London 5200. Tel
(43) 709 2021, Fax (43) 743 4065. Carmen.firstname.lastname@example.org
LIVINGSTONE HOSPITAL (Port Elizabeth) Surgery, Medicine, Paediatrics and
Obstetrics. Please contact Mrs Francis Gelderbloem, Private Bag, Korsten 6014, Port
Elizabeth, Tel (41) 405 2163, Fax (41) 405 2424. email@example.com
PROVINCIAL HOSPITAL (Port Elizabeth) Surgery and Medicine only. Please
contact Mrs.Francis Gelderbloem, Private Bag X0003, Port Elizabeth 6000, Tel (41)
392 3277, Fax (41) 373 2822. firstname.lastname@example.org
I did my elective in the trauma department of the Groote Schuur Hospital, with one
week spent with the metro ambulance service.
The Groote Schuur Hospital is the largest hospital in the Western Cape and is termed
a tertiary hospital as it receives patients for more complex treatment or investigations
from all the smaller secondary hospitals and health centres in the area.
The trauma department is large with a six bed resuscitation area and ten beds for the
initial treatment of non-critical trauma patients. For those that require admission the
trauma department has a low dependency ward and a high dependency ward, both of
which have twenty-four beds. Beds in the intensive care unit are frequently used b y
patients under the care of the department.
The department has four consultants, three cutting registrars and around six medical
officers. The cutting registrars carry out most of the operations, usually assisted by a
medical student, with the consultant being called for more complex cases. The
medical officers treat the patients when they initially arrive at A+E. The placement is
well supervised and the doctors are all very helpful and informative.
Metro Ambulance service:
I arranged this in South Africa after hearing about it from another medical student.
The man to contact is Dr de Vries (phone number 0825686489). He prefers you to
spend a week there in order to fully appreciate the work. I personally found the week
long enough but it is possible to do your whole elective with them. If you have more
time you may get to do some basic training (life support, etc) with the trainee
ambulance crews. One of the other Dundee Medical students did a few weeks with the
ground ambulance and then some time with the air ambulance.
Ask the medical students for clinic details. The student lead clinic runs three nights a week
and transport leaves from outside the library to take you to the townships.
Arranging the elective:
I emailed Ms Paschaline Jacobs (email@example.com) one evening and she replied by
lunch time the next day confirming that she had booked me a place and had attached the
necessary documentation. I changed the dates of my elective several times. Ms Jacobs said
not to worry about this; it happens all the time as students don’t always know the exact dates
in advance. You are recommended to apply at least one or two years in advance for the
elective I did. I applied in June 2005 and still got a place, but I have spoken to several other
who applied about the same time and weren’t so lucky. If an elective in Cape Town in another
hospital or department is desired see the end of this section for contact details.
Ms Jacobs emails you -
Application form to be signed by the Dean
HPCSA (Health Professional Council of South Africa) registration form (cost R165 + R80
bank charges = R245.00)
You also need to pay a fee to the hospital (R3300 for six weeks)
Professional indemnity cover
If you are at the Groote Schuur or the Red Cross Hospital and have been registered
with the University of Cape Town you have professional indemnity cover. However I
would recommend also getting cover from the one of the medical societies. I got
cover with the MDU. It is free and all you need to do is fill in a form on their website.
Travel insurance and personal medical insurance:
I got cover through the STA travel company. They also have a special HIV cover for
HIV prophylaxis kit:
I did not take the £100 kit offered by Ninewells. The Groote Schuur has its own
protocols and I was told I would get HIV prophylaxis and counselling if required. The
Groote Schuur is a large tertiary hospital and such treatment may not be available in
I booked though STA (in Dundee this is opposite the DCA) and flew with Lufthansa
(£640 return including tax).
I did not require a visa as I was not staying in the country long enough (<3 months).
However you are required to have a return ticket home. I was asked for a letter
confirming my placement when I went through customs.
Accommodation is provided for certain hospitals, but not the Groote Schuur. Ms Jacobs
emails a list of possible places to stay.
I stayed at Nelly’s Lodge (www.thelodgeobs.co.za, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel/fax
0027 21 448 6536). Although I booked for a twin room I ended up in a dormitory with three
other girls. The place is clean and well looked after. In the main lodge there is wireless
internet (if you have a lap top, otherwise there is an internet café down the road), a selection
of videos to hire and a washing machine. I was not in the main lodge, but in the new lodge
down the street and so had to use the local laundrette. There is a kitchen in the lodge, a small
supermarket nearby and plenty of places to eat out. It is a five minute walk to the Groote
Schuur Hospital. For a room in a dorm it is R60 a night.
Further up the street and therefore marginally closer to the hospital is ‘The Green Elephant’.
Observatory is a student area and has various cafes and pubs. It is not the safest area with a
number of the people at the lodge being mugged. Foreign students and backpackers are easy
pickings. None of the people at the lodge were stabbed or hurt, but I saw a number of such
cases at the hospital. It is much safer during the day than at night.
Don’t carry anything that you don’t need. Don’t walk down the street waving your
mobile/camera/etc. Look like you know where you are going.
Carry your money in separate places – have R100 to give to the mugger/s in one pocket and
the rest elsewhere.
When you put your bank card into a cash machine press cancel to make sure it comes out
again. If it doesn’t you have lost your bank card but at least the thieves don’t know your pin
number. If a man offers to help don’t trust him. Just leave and cancel your card – chances are
he is with the gang.
One tactic of the muggers is to ask you for money (begging) in order to get close to you
before pulling out a knife. Not all beggars are muggers, however if you give them something
you do run the risk that they will target you every time they see you. One girl at the lodge had
this problem every time she left the lodge. In general just say sorry and keep walking, don’t
engage them in conversation or a debate. If you do give them something two to six rand is the
Another tactic is for a gang to wait around street corners and split up when they pick a target
One of the patients I sutured was attacked by four men who were driving around looking for
people to mug.
Do be extremely vigilant and notice danger before you walk into it. If something is not right,
turn around and head to somewhere where there are a lot of people. Don’t be afraid to run
(and look stupid) it is better safe than sorry. It is not nice to be mugged but I would rather
hand over my money and mobile phone than be stabbed.
Occasionally at night people would ring the intercom system to the lodge. I don’t know what
they wanted, although one man was collecting empty cans. Make sure you check who is at the
door before buzzing them in.
If you have a hire car leave nothing in it. Take the cover off the boot to show it is empty,
leave the (empty) glove compartment open and take the radio out. The street was lined with
the glass from broken car windows.
A street child tried unsuccessfully to pick pocket me in the town centre, but other than that I
had no problems. I did have muggers on two occasions follow me down the road but I had
spotted them, they never got close to me and there was other people about. Cape Town is not
the safest place but as long as you are careful you should not worry too much.
The people in South Africa are, in general, very friendly and helpful. Outside of Cape Town
on the garden route there was not the same concern about safety at all. The people running the
backpacking lodges are willing sources of information and will often book activities for you,
sometimes with a discount.
Travel and Safety
It got dark around 6.30pm, apparently even in summer it is only daylight till about 8.30pm. It
is best to be in by this time and not to walk about by yourself. If you do go out to pubs and
clubs be aware that the taxi service is not as good in Britain. One of the other students had to
stay the night at the lodge because he could not get a taxi and this was at 9pm, never mind in
the early hours of the morning. If you are going out it is best to confirm that Masud or one of
the other taxi drivers (ask at the lodge for numbers) can pick you up.
I used the minibus taxis to get into town and I never had any problems with this. The station
is a crowded place with few whites and I have heard that it is not the safest place. Personally I
had no problems, even when I went into town myself. The minibus taxis are usually not
licensed, have no MOT and will crowd as many people as they can get it. If you are going to
somewhere such as the Red Cross Hospital do make sure you are on the right minibus. One of
the girls ended up in the wrong place as the driver either lied about his route to get her fare or
wasn’t paying attention to her question. They are very frequent, convenient and cheap. To get
the bus back to observatory from the central bus station the stand number is 20 to Mowbray.
Tell them to stop at ‘Chippes’.
To get to Table Mountain the easiest way is to go into town by minibus taxi and phone for a
rikki. These are like taxis but cheaper.
One way to travel around South Africa is on the Bas bus. This runs from Cape Town to
Johannesburg and stops at various places on the way, usually outside a hostel. You can stay as
long as you want and just catch the next one. There is a variety of ticket deals.
Flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town are reasonably cheap. I have heard from
various people that Johannesburg is not a comfortable place to be in. Most people tend to just
go to Krugar National Park and not spend any real time in the city. One of the other medical
students said he would preferred to have done his elective in Cape Town, where it is safer and
there is more to do.
It is a good idea to hire/buy a car, especially if there is a few in the group. It certainly opens
up Cape Town and the surrounding area. Ask at the lodge for the best places to hire a car
Unless you want to hand over a cash deposit of several hundred pounds, you will need a
credit card. You may also require a credit card to confirm bookings.
Exchange rate while I was there was between R12 - R13 to the pound.
Minibus taxi into town from Observatory – R3.50
Taxi to Observatory from the Waterfront – R70ish
Rikki from Town centre to Table Mountain – R20
In general I found Cape Town prices to be similar to Britain. The prices are inflated for the
tourist activities. In Cape Town there is a big gap between what the rich and poor can afford
and where they shop. Don’t expect cheap clothes at the waterfront.
Weather and clothes:
It rained quite a bit and got chilly at night. However, on some days it was 25 oC and sunny. Do
remember it is winter there when it is our summer. I would recommend a rain coat and a
warm jumper or two for the nights. I never found it to be cold enough to make my fleecy
For the hospital (trauma department) you can wear jeans and a t-shirt or what ever you want.
Most of the junior doctors wear casual clothes. I would recommend that you take smart
clothes just in case. You are told to bring a white coat and a stethoscope. Not all the medical
students wear white coats. I don’t really think you need any medical books. The library is
close to the hospital and the doctors are friendly if you have a question.