“It’s a God idea. It’s not my idea. It goes against all human logic and that’s why it’s caught the imagination of so many people.”
So said Dr Paulo de Valdoleiros in a telephone interview with Gateway News yesterday, on the 11th working day since he opened his unique practice in Westdene, Bloemfontein, where patients receive care and then pay what they feel they can afford.
He said it was “quite crazy and unexpected” how much publicity his practice has received locally and internationally over the past week on social media, on the front page of a local daily newspaper, in online and print media, on radio and even on television.
“What has happened has definitely not been due to natural causes. There is no way I could have come up with such a marketing plan,” chuckled the 58-year-old doctor who said he had seen about 20 patients yesterday — more than he saw in the whole first week.
He said God’s idea for his practice has provided him with the perfect platform to do what he believes he was created to do — to share “God’s unadulterated Word” and “to deliver whatever message He wants me to deliver”, while providing people with excellent, personalised medical care, irrespective of their financial circumstances.
De Valdoleiros said he had dreamed of helping people as a doctor since he was 9-years-old. But his family, which came to South Africa from Mozambique when he was 14, was poor and he started working after completing school.
Against all odds, at the age of 46, he managed to enrol in medical school at the University of Free State where he gained a reputation for thinking differently. He believes that the human body is designed for health and not disease, so we need to learn how to prevent disease rather than how to cure it.
He graduated at 51 and later did some study in functional medicine, which is a speciality in the US but is not taught in South Africa. He is a regular guest on the health-product-oriented Real Health Show on the Home Channel on DSTV.
He said God’s statement that His people perish because of lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6) is true in all fields including health.
Teaching patients to take care of their bodies
“Treating the symptoms is not enough. Many conditions are due to lifestyle,” he said, emphasising that he is committed to teaching patients to take better care of their bodies in order to live healthier, longer lives.
He said he had known for a long time that he was called to declare and teach God’s Word — but not as a pastor or evangelist. He pursued his childhood dream of studying medicine and now realises that God has used that to open up a platform for him to reach people who might never set foot in a church.
He said he has been through a difficult time after he and his wife were divorced five years ago — a situation he is still trusting God to reverse.
During this hard time he began to journal his journey with God, recording key Scriptures and divine impressions. In July 2017 he wrote in his journal that a time was coming when he was going to be doing things that defy all logic.
Three months ago he decided that he was going to implement “this God idea” that had been with him for a while and he started his current practice.
“Basically the concept was I can take care of anybody — you pay what you can afford. So, I see the patient, I do an examination if necessary. We give out basic medication — by basic medication I mean the type of medication that has been around for about 40 years, so it is relatively cheap. So a little session of antibiotics costs us around R20 to R25.
“We don’t charge for any of this. I see the patient, I give them medication if necessary. You then go to reception and you decide your fee. The staff is trained not to tell you what it is or what it isn’t because we don’t have a set fee. It’s what you decide, what you can afford — it’s between you and your conscience.
“In a sense, I’m getting people to make decisions they have never had to make. I feel that just because you don’t have money shouldn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to see a doctor,” he said.
De Valdoleiros said a number of people have asked him about the risk of people abusing the opportunity he provided. He said his response was that there is nothing to abuse as there is no system, as there is no minimum.
He said he is not contracted to any medical aids as this would defeat the purpose of the practice.
He emphasised that his practice is not for poor people only. So far, most of the people he has seen are facing financial challenges. His patients have ranged from a very poor, uneducated person who can’t write his first name to a young advocate and two candidate attorneys. One couple had a top medical aid but due to terrible issues earlier this year their medical aid and savings were depleted. Others were in financial difficulty through factors such as retrenchment or poor choices.
He said he kept boxes of tissues on his desk and the tissues were being used.
“People cry and it is good for them to let things out. They open up to me and regardless of education or status they are all people. Everyone has the same need for God, everyone has the same need for meaning. Most people are striving for money in a constant struggle for survival with no true dependence on the Creator — the one who takes care of the lilies and takes care of the birds, and surely knows how to take care of us.”
De Valdoleiros said he was having the greatest fun of his life being able to help people on different levels.
“There are people with terrible issues — people who were molested at the age of six, people suffering terrible trauma, living in incredible pain. The needs are incredible.”
He said patients can arrive at the practice at 100 Kellner Street, Westdene, Bloemfontein, and expect to be seen on a first-come-first-served basis. But patients are welcome to call first at 071 719 1675 if they wished.