Healthcare challenges in the World Cup's host country

I'm a huge fan of soccer (or non-American football) and this week kicks off the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

As I've been chatting with friends internationally and reading up on preparations, there has been interesting news about some of the challenges the host country is facing from a healthcare perspective. Apparently the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has very specific requirements of the host country and cities where the matches are played.

One guideline requires them to keep hospital wards half empty, which may force some hospitals to transfer longer term patients elsewhere during this period. Care for local patients during this World Cup playing time will be different for many reasons, let alone tourists. Already, local patients seeking specialty care have noticed a sharp decline in their ability to get referrals to specialists.

Local medical professionals have expressed concern that if a major medical emergency occurs during the World Cup (which is expected to draw more than 300,000 fans), the country's hospitals may not be able to handle it. "Hospital disaster plans are actually a disaster," one official told reporters back in April.