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Where to find affordable medical care

Posted  February 7, 2017

There are many ways to reduce the cost of medical treatments & services. 

There’s no question about it: medical expenses are costly. But, you might be surprised to discover just how many ways there are to reduce your medical expenses – especially the smaller month-to-month costs that quickly add up.

There are many ways that you can reduce your medical expenses.

We took a look at some of the medical services available to the average South African that don’t cost you an arm and a leg, as long as you know where to find them.

Rethink your GP visit, see a pharmacist firstMost people visit their GPs when they have a cold, flu or a tummy bug. Rotten as these things may make you feel, there’s very little a GP can actually do about them other than help to alleviate the symptoms. A pharmacist can offer you much of the same medication, and they consult for free.

Some people apply the “three-day rule”: if you are not feeling terribly ill, give an ailment three days to get better on its own before seeking – and paying for – medical treatment.

Look into your local pharmacy’s clinic facilities While you’re at your pharmacy, check out the services that they offer. Many pharmacies run clinics where experienced nursing sisters will provide a consultation and offer services like blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol testing. If you need regular checkups of this nature, it can save you a fortune to pop in to your local pharmacy.

For example, DisChem charges R10 to take blood pressure and R66 for a basic cholesterol test.*

Some pharmacy clinics also offer vaccinations and Well Baby clinics (call first to check which vaccinations are available and whether you need an appointment).

Consider your GP before your paediatrician Specialists charge top rates, so don’t consult them unless it’s really necessary. An otherwise healthy baby doesn’t need to visit a paed when they get a cold or a fever (and a paed certainly doesn’t need to spend their time prescribing a saline nose spray). Most paeds, in fact, are happy to refer their small patients to GPs that they trust, knowing that if the illness is more serious than a cold or tummy upset, the GP will call them.

A paed might charge in the region of R1 000, and a GP is usually under R400, so you’ll save money – and you’ll get to see the GP a lot quicker. You should consider this rule for other specialists as well – if you are seeing a specialist just to renew a prescription, find out whether a GP can take over your care.

Gynae too pricey? Rather find out where else to get women’s health services Certain DisChem clinics as well as Clicks clinics offer PAP smears, breast exams and family planning services. You can also have these procedures at Marie Stopes clinics and other family planning clinics, campus clinics or mobile clinics in your area. Look online or ask around for a reference.

It’s worth visiting a gynae if you are planning on trying for a baby, or if you have any condition that need specialist care, but for a healthy woman, there’s no need to be forking out for specialist gynaecological care.

Replace your medication with available generics Generics are medications that are created after the patent has expired on branded medication. They are identical to the original formulation, but because there’s no money to be spent on research and development, they are a lot cheaper. If you are prescribed a medication, it’s always worth asking if there is a generic – especially if the medication is ongoing, as you’ll be spending money on it every month.

Use CANSA’s services for cancer screening The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) offers PAP smears, breast cancer screening, prostate cancer screening, skin cancer screening and lifestyle risk assessments to assess your cancer risk at their CANSA Care Centres nationwide. They also have CANSA Mobile Health Clinics that travel around the country, so if you are not in a major city centre, find out when one is coming to your area.

Screening at these centres and mobile clinics costs between R80 and R200, depending on the procedure – which is certainly cheaper than a visit to a GP, dermatologist, urologist or gynaecologist.

Look out for health awareness events and get tested During Diabetes Awareness Day (in November) or Heart Awareness Month (in September), many participating organisations will offer free or reduced cost testing. Get in touch with Diabetes SA or the Heart and Stroke Foundation to find out if there are any events or testing drives that you can participate in. And never turn down the opportunity to participate in a health assessment if your company offers one on a corporate wellness day.

Consider your local government hospital’s services If you have a government hospital near you, it can be worth paying a visit to find out what healthcare services and clinics they offer. While you will almost always queue to be seen, you will be charged on a sliding scale basis in line with what you can afford, with most expenses not exceeding a couple of hundred rand. For example, the Helen Joseph Hospital has an excellent Breast Care Clinic for women in need of a breast exam or even cancer treatment.

Do home tests for STDs These days, it’s a good idea to start out a new relationship by testing for sexually transmitted diseases, so that both partners can be confident that they are in good health. The cheapest way of conducting an STD test is to buy a testing kit from FAMKA , and conduct the tests in the privacy of your own home. The STD Combo Kit, which includes tests for all major STDs and HIV, costs R489 plus a delivery fee. This range of tests can cost more than R2 000 elsewhere.

Get your hearing and sight tested for free Don’t just go to your nearest optometrist or audiologist for testing. Call around to see if you can find one offering the basic test for free – many do. Obviously, you’ll have to pay for further services if you discover that there is some kind of a problem, but simply having your vision and eyesight tested needn’t cost you anything.

The bottom lineThere are many ways to access medical services that don’t cost a fortune and that in no way compromise the standard of care you receive. If money is tight, it’s worth investigating ways to make medical care more cost effective for you and your family.

* Prices quoted at time of writing.

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