Informal waste recyclers contribute significantly to waste removal in South Africa. Waste recyclers face health hazards which are associated with handling and disposal of waste, a lack of personal protective wear and inaccessibility to occupational health care services. Consequently, accessing health care within the public health care sector is important for health outcomes in this population. This study assesses health care access of informal waste recyclers in South Africa to establish baseline information for health planning for potential inclusion of informal waste recyclers into occupational health services.
A cross-sectional study of informal waste recyclers in two landfill sites in Johannesburg was conducted from March 2018. A standardized structured questionnaire was used to collect information on sociodemographic details, health care utilization, barriers to access and acceptability and affordability of health care. Factors associated with health care utilization were assessed using logistic regression.
A total of 363 informal waste recyclers were included in the study. Less than half of informal waste recyclers (41.0%) used health care facilities in the last 12 months. Those who accessed services chose to use facilities close to where they live (87.0%). Barriers to accessing health care services included long waiting periods (36.6%), being unable to take time off work (26.3%) and transport problems (13%). In the univariate analysis, factors such as gender and being treated well at the clinic and location of the health care facility were associated with health care utilization (OR: 1.97, p = 0.05, OR: 1.94, p = 0.02, OR: 0.65, p = 0.04 respectively).
Informal waste recyclers face numerous challenges to accessing health care. Specific to their informal trade, barriers to health care utilization are related to financial repercussions due to the informal nature of their work.