Innocent Ruwende — GOVERNMENT has increased consultation fees for general practitioners by 100 percent, but massively slashed maternity fees for private hospitals. In a notice published in the Government Gazette yesterday, Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa said the new fees would apply with immediate effect.
Initial consultation at a general practitioner's room is now US$35, up from US$20, while subsequent consultation at the rooms for the same illness will be US$30, up from US$15.
Subsequent consultation at hospital or nursing home per day is now US$40, up from US$20.
Doctor's consultation fees go up to US$60 for weekend visits and US$70 for night visits.
Expecting mothers will pay US$35 for the initial antenatal visit, while subsequent visits and post-natal visits will cost US$30.
A visit to a physician paediatrician will cost US$120, up from US$100, while subsequent consultations at rooms for the same illness is now US$70, down from US$80.
"Notice is hereby given, in terms of section 16A(c)(ii) of the Medical Services (Medical Aid Services) Regulations 2000, that the consultation fees and private hospital and associated unit fees, set out in the schedule, shall apply with effect from the date of publication of this general notice," read Dr Parirenyatwa's notice.
An initial visit to a surgeon is now pegged at US$80.
Government slashed theatre charges to US$181 from the more than US$750 charged by most institutions.
Maternity fees have also been reduced for private hospitals to US$126 for a normal delivery in Category A institutions, down from around US$750, while those in Category B will charge US$96.
Before this, consultation fees for general practitioners and specialists were almost similar to those charged in other countries.
Tariffs that were in use all along which required patients to pay US$20 as consultation fees to a general practitioner had little difference with those paid by patients in South Africa and France.
In South Africa, the consultation fees for a general practitioner is US$25, while in France it is US$30.
The Zimbabwe Medical Association had proposed an upward review of the cost to US$50 a visit, but Government settled for US$35.
A survey by The Herald showed that the cost of medical care in Zimbabwe is the highest in southern Africa and is almost at par with fees in developed countries.
The findings showed that the cost of procedures in Zimbabwe is more than twice that of India, South Africa, Zambia and Malawi, among other developing countries, but almost similar with those in France, Australia, United Kingdom and the US where the standard of living and earnings are higher.
Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe chief executive Mrs Shylet Sanyanga has said effecting an increase on medical tariffs would make local rates even more expensive than those in developed countries.
"Funders do not expect an increase in tariffs at all," she said. "The country is experiencing falling inflation, so there can be no justification for increases."
Specialists had proposed increasing their consultation fees to US$120.
On the other hand, medical aid societies were opposed to any raise, arguing that the current tariffs were already on the high side for the majority of Zimbabweans.
This deadlock forced Government to impose new tariffs.
Last year, Government ordered all service providers not to increase tariffs until it came up with a uniform tariff regime, but some service providers had defied this, resulting in medical aid societies' members paying the differences either before receiving treatment (co-payment) or after treatment (shortfall).