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Introduction: Objective: To conduct an analysis of all registered South Africa (SA) diagnostic radiology equipment, assess the number of equipment units per capita by imaging modality, and compare SA figures with published international data, in preparation for the introduction of national health insurance (NHI) in SA.
Methods: The SA Radiation Control Board's database of registered diagnostic radiology equipment was analysed by modality, province and healthcare sector. Access to services was reflected as number of units/million population, and compared with published international data.
Results: General X-ray units are the most equitably distributed and accessible resource (34.8/million). For fluoroscopy (6.6/million), mammography (4.96/million), computed tomography (5.0/million) and magnetic resonance imaging (2.9/million), there are at least 10-fold discrepancies between the least and best resourced provinces. Although SA's overall imaging capacity is well above that of other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, it is lower than that of all Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). While SA's radiological resources most closely approximate those of the United Kingdom, they are substantially lower than the UK.
Conclusion: SA access to radiological services is lower than that of any OECD country. For the NHI to achieve equitable access to diagnostic imaging for all citizens, SA will need a more homogeneous distribution of specialised radiological resources and customized imaging guidelines.
Key words: Diagnostic imaging equipment, resource-limited environment, national health insurance