FIRST Health Finance (FHF), a provider of payment plans mainly for elective medical procedures, is thriving, having attracted 5 000 applications for procedures worth millions of rands since it was launched 18 months ago.

This is despite the recession that has cut consumers’ disposable income.

The company, the first of its kind in South Africa, also helps clients without medical aid cover, or those wanting procedures that health funders do not cover, such as cosmetic surgery, dental implants and fertility treatments.

This year alone, FHF has had close to R25 million worth of applications for breast augmentations and R15m for cosmetic surgeries. There are at least 1 000 medical practitioners around the country who refer patients to the financier.

It is a common phenomenon for health-related businesses to do well even when the economy is depressed. But it is also at times like these when people carefully choose what to spend their money on and sometimes downgrade their medical aid.

Jason Sive, a director at FHF, said the positive uptake of the group’s offerings was an indication that people wanted to feel good about themselves even in bad times.

“We have patients who are clearly in financial trouble, but they still apply for finance for elective procedures,” said Sive.

An applicant can approach a doctor first, get a quotation then apply for finance and get finance approved before going to a doctor. Applications are filed online and the money is paid directly to the medical practitioner or the facility.

FHF is regulated by the National Credit Regulator.