SW Radio Africa (London)

30 May 2014

Zimbabwe: Healthcare Unaffordable for Most Zimbabweans

The shocking cost of Zimbabwe's healthcare has been exposed by the medical bill paid by the MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai to the Trauma centre in Avondale.

Luke Tamborinyoka, Tsvangirai' spokesman, said close to $4,500 was paid for the diagnosis, medicines and hospitalisation of the MDC-T leader at the medical facility on Wednesday. Tsvangirai spent three nights hospitalized.

Our Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa said the majority of Zimbabweans, many of them unemployed, do not have access to even basic healthcare facilities and private medical care is unaffordable for most.

'You cannot afford to get sick these days due to high medical costs,' said Muchemwa, just days after the government increased consultation fees for general practitioners by 100 percent.

Health minister David Parirenyatwa said the new fees would apply with immediate effect. Consulting a general practitioner is now US$35, up from US$20, while further consultation for the same illness will be US$30, up from US$15. Consulting a doctor over the weekend has gone up to US$60 and US$70 for night visits.

In Tsvangirai's case, Muchemwa said the former Prime Minister might have had a battery of tests to diagnose what he was suffering from. Some of the procedures are very expensive.

'Just having a head scan at a private specialist clinic will cost you $1,500 and who knows, the MDC-T leader may have had a couple of such scans to determine the true cause of what was troubling him,' Muchemwa added.

He continued: 'With the rising prices in medicine, most people, especially the poor, cannot afford to purchase drugs. If the healthcare system continues to decline, the poor will not receive any healthcare, mortality rates will increase and all this perpetuates the healthcare crisis in Zimbabwe.

On Friday the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) expressed shock at the government's decision to increase healthcare services fees.

In a statement the ZLHR said the effect of the increment is to double the cost of healthcare services fees in the private sector. This is highly unacceptable as it will hamper access to healthcare services for a majority of Zimbabweans who are already struggling to make ends meet.

'ZLHR has raised concerns on the failure by the Zimbabwean government to put in place measures to revitalise the crumbling healthcare system and the grave consequences this has had on ordinary Zimbabweans, the statement said.

The lawyers added that most Zimbabweans cannot afford the new gazetted fees and that people suffering from chronic diseases such as kidney failure and cancer will require an estimated $300 per week to access services.

'People without health insurance, those suffering from chronic illnesses, the elderly and women will be the worst affected. Invariably, the cost will be passed on to the patients whose lives and health are placed in further jeopardy by this arbitrary increase.'

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