Many families are still feeling the impact of over six months of lockdown, given the devastating effect of job losses and retrenchments. If you have found yourself or your family in this position and had to re-examine your budget as a result of a loss of income, you may have re-looked your medical aid options. Can you still get good medical healthcare?
Cancelling or downgrading a medical aid plan in the wake of a recession is often a last resort. For first-time parents, this can be a particularly stressful if juggling the reality of a loss of income, as well as the all-consuming worry that all new parents typically face: How to provide the best care for their children.
So says Dr Iqbal Karbanee, CEO of Paed-IQ BabyLine, a 24/7 telephonic-based helpline for medical advice, given by paediatric-trained nurses, who adds that on average new parents visit doctors, paediatricians or clinics for routine check-ups at least six times in their baby’s first year. Non-routine visits during this time can easily double this number to 12 visits per year.
“This is because most first-time parents struggle to know if their newborn’s behaviour is normal, or if their baby is sick,” says Karbanee.
He explains that on average, babies get sick approximately between eight and ten times per year in their first three years of life; if a child goes to nursery school or creche, this number can double.
“Approximately one third of a baby’s first year is spent either getting sick or recovering from a sickness, this is a normal part of their life.”
The cost of medical consultations in a baby’s first three years can therefore quickly escalate. For those who are on medical aid cover without savings plans (hospital plans), the costs of medical consultations are not included, and can leave families out of pocket, especially as they are paid-for in cash. Some medical aids calculate the cost of raising a child in the first year at over R90 000 for the average middle-income family.
“Some new parents actually don’t know how to identify the difference between a common complaint that can be treated with home care, or a life-threatening situation that urgently requires a trip to the emergency room,” says Karbanee.
In both instances, parents need help to guide them on the most appropriate course of action, yet, global research suggests that in 71% of cases, visits to an emergency room are completely avoidable and unnecessary. Similarly, in at least 70% of calls taken by Paed-IQ BabyLine, children do not need to see a physician and the recommended treatment is simple homecare.
Furthermore, while the lockdown and advent of social distancing forced many medical providers to embrace technology-based solutions, such as virtual GP consults, these are offered mostly to medical aid members. According to the Council for Medical Schemes, there are only 4.02 million registered medical aid members, serving a total of 8.87 million people, representing approximately 15.9% of South Africans.
“Virtual consults therefore still remain out of reach and inaccessible for most,” says Karbanee.
Furthermore, most of the virtual doctor consults and other such services require the use of data, which, for those not earning an income, not on a smartphone or device, or with a severely constrained budget, is not possible.
So how can parents and caregivers who have limited to no medical aid cover, or have a loss of income, still get good healthcare for their family?
“Early and appropriate medical intervention that is rooted in less traditional or mainstream forms of advice can optimise medical outcomes, help to safeguard the health of children and families, and ensure that caregivers spend less money on medical bills,” says Karbanee.
Specifically, telephonic-based advised services have proven to be a winner during COVID-19 for those who have lost income, only have a hospital plan, or don’t have any medical aid cover at all.
“Caregivers can phone a medical-advice line and quickly get an answer on the correct course of action, without needing to spend time queuing in clinics or paying for single consultations.”
However, he cautions that not all advice lines are the same, and caregivers should ensure they only use a service where medically trained and qualified professionals are employed. He also urges people to be careful of consulting with “Dr Google” or family members for medical advice.
“It can be dangerous to rely on friends and family who have ‘been there before’, as because you trust them, you may not question their advice, which may not be appropriate for your circumstances, or even be based on myth.
“Furthermore, telephonic-based advices services do not replace the services of a doctor or the taking of medicine, but rather offer appropriate and early medical intervention through advice, so that you feel more empowered to make better decisions to look after your child,” concludes Karbanee.
About Paed-IQ BabyLine
Paed-IQ BabyLine is a 24/7 telephonic-based, medical advice subscription service for caregivers to babies and children, given by paediatric-trained nurses. By offering early and appropriate medical intervention through advice, we have helped to safeguard the health of over 10000 children. Paed-IQ BabyLine’s protocol was developed for South Africa by Karbanee and is endorsed by globally renowned paediatrician, Dr Barton Schmitt, the father of medical-advice telephonic systems. Paed-IQ BabyLine reduces the burden on the healthcare system by offering quick, early and appropriate medical intervention via the telephone. Visit https://Paed-IQ.com/ for more.