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Cape Town - There was a time when doctors would make house calls, but with the increase in population and decrease in health practitioners, house visits have became impossible. Now there has been a renewed call for house visits to return.

A healthcare platform has recently been established to help with facilitating and booking home health care. But the question is whether the country can afford it and whether it has enough health practitioners to do house visits.

Founder of Chariot Health, Cameron Bruce, said: “I really support this call because it’s my work and I enjoy what I do. I enjoy taking care of people and bringing care into people’s homes.”

Bruce said he believed house visits had a place in the country.

“Patients should be assisted to live the type of life they want. Instead of going to hospital, they could choose to live and be treated at home and be allowed to make choices between things they still want to do in their lives and where and how they should be treated,” he said.

Chariot Health has six doctors and six nurses and does about 20 house visits a day. It operates in various parts of Cape Town. “Chariot Health’s aim is to create a seamless information and communication portal between all players who are or could become involved with a patient - extending from his or her bedside - from caregivers to emergency services to hospitals,” Bruce said.

But medical consultants were concerned. They said there were not enough health practitioners to do health visits.

“Unfortunately we do not have enough resources for doctors to do house calls. A doctor doing house calls can see maybe 8 to 10 patients a day, but they can see 30 to 40 in their private practice rooms.

Health consultant Johann Serfontein said: “It is not efficient. The proposal in National Health Insurance is for low-level health workers to do home visits. That makes sense because they can identify the presence of illness and refer patients to doctors or nurses.

“It is difficult for private GPs to make a living from home visits because medical-aid schemes are not willing to pay them enough to do so.

“They would need to earn the same hourly rate they would get in their rooms because the overheads in your rooms continue while you are out doing home visits. T

“They could do it at a lower rate if they don’t have rooms at all and therefore have lower overhead costs, but there are not many doctors in such a position,” he said.

Chairperson of the South African Medical Association, Angelique Coetzee, said: “What we have to realise is that we don’t have enough medical doctors to do house visits and you have to consider the costs involved because at the end who will carry those costs.”

She said it could also be dangerous for doctors to go to the homes of patients because of crime.

@MarvinCharles17

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Cape Argus