How to stay healthy and what to do if we should fall ill, are topics we probably think about more than usual at the moment, given that the world is in the grip of a pandemic. As with most things in life, panic and worry are not the answer to unplanned medical expenses. Understanding what your options are – from free services to how to get a loan now – is the way to go.
Healthcare remains a thorny issue in South Africa. Public services are often not up to standard and private care tends to be very expensive. Furthermore, given that so many of our hospitals and clinics are focusing on being prepared for pandemic patients, there are reports of people struggling to access normal healthcare.
The good news is that three well-known South African companies have created alternative healthcare options for all of us:
Until the end of May this year, selected Clicks pharmacies are offering free basic healthcare services to people who don’t have medical aid. The service is available from 13:00 onwards every afternoon. All you have to do, is book an appointment with the clinic closest to you, and the sister will be there to do some basic tests, such as checking your blood pressure and glucose levels. You can also discuss any concerns you might have and get advice on how to manage your health. Call 0860 254 257 to find your nearest participating clinic and to book an appointment, or visit https://clinicbookings.clicks.co.za/
If you are concerned that you or someone close to you might have the coronavirus, you can get free information, advice and – if necessary – an online consultation with a doctor, all without leaving your home.
This free service is provided by Discovery and Vodacom, and here is how it works:
- Go to www.discovery.co.za or www.vodacom.co.za.
- Click on the Covid-19 online doctor consultation banner.
- Follow the short registration process, if you are not a Discovery client already.
- Answer the risk assessment questions about your symptoms.
- If you are at high risk, you will be directed to choose a doctor you know or a doctor in a dedicated Covid-19 Care Team who is available.
- Choose an available doctor for immediate assistance or book a time that is available in your doctor’s calendar.
- Look out for the reminder before your consultation.
- If after the consultation the doctor recommends testing, you will receive the completed pathology form by SMS or email. The same process will apply to scripts for medicine.
- You go to the healthcare provider specified on the form to be tested.
- Your doctor will receive the test results electronically and can schedule follow-up appointments with you to discuss the results and the next steps.
These free services can make a big difference to your life, but it is also true that they will not meet all your medical needs. Something might happen for which you, your partner, child or parent need immediate medical care, and you need the money to pay for it.
Your first option should always be to use your emergency fund. However, if you don’t have emergency funds available, a personal loan could be the way to go. Taking out a loan comes with big responsibilities, so here are some tips to guide you when you need a loan now:
- Start by choosing the right credit provider. It can be very easy to get loans online with instant approval, but the companies offering them could lead you into a debt trap. Always go for registered financial services providers so that you don’t become a victim of reckless lending. Even in an emergency you must take enough time to make good decisions so that you don’t end up in even more financial trouble later on.
- Remember that a loan always comes with fees and costs, the biggest of which is interest. Spend a bit of time to understand how the loan will affect your cash flow by working out the personal loan interest rate. Bayport’s personal loan affordability calculator can help you understand how to calculate interest on a loan. Play around with amounts and repayment periods to get a very good idea of what the monthly instalment would be. Now plug those numbers into your monthly budget and see what the impact is.
- Keep a clear head while going through the loan application process. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions, and know exactly how much the loan will cost you. Do not sign anything unless you are sure you understand everything.
- Stick to the loan agreement, pay your instalments on time and, if at all possible, pay more than the minimum amount. By managing your emergency loan well, you can even boost your credit health.
Facing a medical emergency is a scary place to be. Fortunately, when you know upfront what your options are, you can make sound decisions, both for your physical health and your financial health.