'Support the doctor who charges patients only what they can afford'
The Bloemfontein medic the world has fallen in love with for his unconventional practice of allowing patients to pay what they can afford, has been overwhelmed by the attention he has received.
Samy Bala, a Congolese Uber driver in Cape Town, has started a crowdfunding campaign on backabuddy site with the aim to raise R1m to support Dr Paulo de Valdoleiros.
By Tuesday morning, more than R23,000 had been raised.
“I was shocked by his commitment because this is out of the ordinary. To become a doctor you need to put in so much money and effort, and this one person just comes out and does this,” said Bala.
“To me I think he is an angel and I just hope that this country with its many generous people will support him."
Bala said he aimed for R1m because of the expenses he expects De Valdoleiros will incur through his good deeds.
"I kept thinking about how he has to pay his staff and live off whatever he makes," he said.
De Valdoleiros, 58, who only started studying medicine in his 40s at the University of the Free State, told SowetanLIVE that the main idea of the practice is that everyone deserves to have access to quality medical care despite their financial circumstances.
“I don’t know where the influence for this idea came. I believe it must be an idea from God,” he said.
The father of four was born in Portugal and moved to Mozambique when he was still a child. His family later moved to South Africa in the 1970s. He said although he had wanted to study medicine since he was a child, his family could never afford it.
“When I was nine years old I was hospitalised with hepatitis and since then I just had this dream,” said De Valdoleiros.
“When I turned 45, I realised that I could not let myself die without studying medicine.”
Because of his age, he said he had to study a BSc first to prove that he would be able to continue into medicine, and finally graduated as a qualified general practitioner.
The doctor, who has been featured in almost all of the country’s media, said he is happy to have made a positive impact with his story.
“The last three weeks have been a roller coaster ride. I am astonished and bewildered because I had just set out to do something that seemed normal to do," said De Valdoleiros.
People who are donating to the campaign have shared how the doctor has inspired them.
"Thank you Dr. Paulo. You have shown me that life can be better if we support each other," JerryJul posted, while Debby Dooley, who donated R1,000, commented, "Our future seems brighter because of men like this."