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SOTHAFRICA: Strangers Crowdfund For Doctor Who Charge Patients Whatever They Can Afford

By Published July 04, 2019

Dr Paulo de Valdoleiros, 56, who has an unconventional approach to the practice of medicine by charging patients whatever they can afford has had strangers raising funds for him to sustain the practice.

Valdoleiros opened his practice on June 17 in Bloemfontein and has attended to over 50 patients who only had to walk in, get examined and paid between R10 to R500 for consultation.

A 30-year-old Congolese Uber driver in Cape Town has set up a crowdfunding campaign for Valdoleiros, so that he can continue his work.

Samy Bala said he was inspired by the Doctor’s story and was instantly motivated to try and continue the spirit of ubuntu.

Valdoleiros, who enrolled to study medicine at the University of the Free State at the age of 45, said it had been his lifelong dream to study toward the degree, but because of personal circumstances, it took him until his 40s to achieve this. He eventually graduated at age 51.

"We came from Mozambique in 1974, and I was 14. We lost everything there, so we had nothing. I finished school here, and there was no money to study, even during school, I started working part-time at the age of 15 after school...

"I turned 45, and I said that's it, I want to try at least to get in and study medicine so that I won't die without having even tried, the rest is history," he said.

He said once a patient has been examined by him, they are prescribed their medication. After a consultation, the patients make their way to reception where they decide what they can afford to pay.

"Patients can walk in without an appointment. They can also call and make an appointment. They complete a form that asks questions related to their previous health history.

He said his primary aim was to change people's lives and the money was secondary. "In terms of how I will live, to me, it is a matter of adapting my life to my income and not the other way. You cannot adapt to your life but your life to the income.

"Our first week, we had 10 patients for the whole week. The third week, last Monday, we had 20, and then we had 22… I can cater to roughly about 20 patients a day because I spend quite a lot of time with them," he said.

Valdoleiros added that he does not "sell" sick notes and merely gave them to patients who needed to spend time at home to heal.

On the long term survival of his practice model, Valdoleiros said: "God is the boss, and he will make it work. I call it a God idea because I don't think that it is my natural understanding for me to think of this idea."

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