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Desperate Zimbabweans go to Zambia for medical care

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The Zimbabwe government has, with immediate effect, hiked by 600%, fees at all public hospitals, something that is set to add more misery to suffering locals. New Zimbabwe reports that the new charges would most likely see an increase in the number of people – especially pregnant women and the underprivileged – who are going to fail to access health care as they could not raise money for treatment.

The report says permanent secretary in the Zimbabwe Health Ministry, Agnes Mahomva, confirmed the new charges, adding that the new fees were with effect from 1 January. The new fees will see a patient seeking treatment for chronic illness paying $100 at Parirenyatwa Hospital, as consultation, up from $15. This is an increase of 567%.

Defending the new hospital fees, Mahomva said the government was not abandoning the public. She however appeared to be contradicting the new fee schedule when she said pregnant women were to receive free treatment.

The report says Section 29 of the Constitution stipulates that the State must take all practical measures to ensure the provision of basic, accessible and adequate health services for all. It also clearly stipulates that the State must take appropriate, fair and reasonable measures to ensure that no person is refused emergency medical treatment at any health institution.

This is expected to worsen the situation for already desperate Zimbabweans who are now travelling to neighbouring Zambia to seek ready and affordable medical treatment in the wake of a prolonged strike by local doctors and an undependable health delivery system, according to a New Zimbabwe report.

The report says in Zimbabwe, nurses and doctors in government and local council-run health centres have been engaging in industrial action demanding salaries in foreign currency and improved working conditions. This has seriously affected the country’s fragile health delivery system with some public hospitals forced to close wards while patients left with no option but to visit private doctors who charge their services in foreign currency.

The report says its investigations showed that cash-strapped Zimbabweans in need of urgent treatment, have resorted to crossing into Zambia to access cheaper and better health care.

Charles Gwindiri said his wife fell ill and he took her to Karoi Hospital where they were turned away. He decided to try a private hospital, which demanded US$300 upfront from the couple before they decided to travel to Zambia. “Just a few days before Christmas, I took my wife to Mutendere Hospital in Zambia. She had problems with her legs and uterus,” said Gwindiri. “For her treatment and transport for the two of us, we used US$40, which is equivalent to 520 Kwacha. This amount is very little compared to the US$300, which we had been quoted by a local private hospital.”

The report says Cleopas Moyo of Bulawayo also recently travelled to Livingstone in Zambia seeking treatment after he suffered a heart attack. “I was forced to travel to Livingstone Central Hospital in Zambia because the money which was being charged by private doctors in Bulawayo was too exorbitant. I went to Mpilo Hospital thrice and I was told that there were no doctors,” said Moyo. “Had I not travelled to Zambia, I would be dead by now,” said Moyo before urging the government to prioritise the health sector. “Something has to be done by the government to bring life back to our health delivery system which has collapsed to unprecedented levels,” he added.

The report says top government and Zanu PF officials have also lost confidence in local health institutions and are also seeking treatment in South Africa and abroad. Currently, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga is in China for his “medical review”. He recently spent four months admitted in one of the Asian country’s hospitals.

New Zimbabwe report

New Zimbabwe report

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