With immediate effect government has increased medical consultation fees for general practitioners by one hundred percent, state media has reported.
A government notice said initial consultation at a general practitioner's room is now $35, up from $20, while a subsequent consultation for the same illness has risen from $15 to $30. A subsequent consultation at a hospital or nursing home rose from $20 to $40, while weekend and night doctor's consultations will now cost $60 and $70.
Initial consultations for pregnant women will cost $35 while subsequent visits will cost $30. Specialist doctors will now cost $120, up from $100, while subsequent consultations for the same illness went down from $80 to $70.
These changes mean that the cost of medical care in Zimbabwe is now the highest in the region, despite the fact that South Africa has a superior medical care system. The Herald said so high is the cost of medical care in Zimbabwe that it rivals those of developed countries, such as Australia and France.
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights Chairperson, Rutendo Bonde, said the development was indicative of the state of the economy. She said: 'The reason why there is an outcry when private health care increases its tariffs is because Zimbabwe is now dependent on the private health institutions. If you want quality care you go private and that why it appears so expensive.'
She added: 'It is obviously not good for a developing country to be dependent on private practice. People should be able to access quality health care through public institutions, but public health care is not improving. Private health care is for a small section of the population who can afford it and should not be the main service provider. The constitutional obligation rests with the state and the state needs to step up.'
Bonde's comments come at a time when the country's health system is already in the intensive care with the government having virtually surrendered the provision of medical drugs to the donor community. A senior government official recently revealed that government had failed to provide adequate medical drugs for six years, with 98% of the supplies coming from donors during that period.
Over the years government has come under attack for underfunding the health sector. Out of a total budget of $4.4 billion, the ministry of health was allocated just $337 million in 2014.
Health experts say the allocation fell short of what is stipulated by the 2001 African Union Abuja Declaration. Zimbabwe is a signatory to the agreement which governments undertook to ensure that 15 percent of their annual budget goes towards the improvement of the health sector.