Specialist doctors under fire

Tapiwa Mutizamhepo Herald Reporter
Specialist doctors are holding medical aid societies to ransom because of the shortage of such professionals in the country, stakeholders heard recently.

Premier Services Medical Aid Society chief executive Dr Farai Muchena said during a health procurement conference held in Harare that this resulted in exorbitant charges for services.

“To a greater extent, medical aid societies are being held to ransom because of scarcity of medical specialists,” he said. “Due to these demand and supply dynamics that favour specialists, specialists charge exorbitant prices which the members and medical aid companies cannot afford, resulting in huge shortfalls, dissatisfied members and poor clinical outcomes.”

Dr Muchena said medical aid companies had not been able to adjust member subscriptions, resulting in societies collecting sub-economical rates, thereby threatening their viability.

“In order for medical aid societies to be able to pay service providers at the levels that would meet services providers’ expectations, the rates of contributions would need to be adjusted actuarially to levels that employers and employees would be unable to afford, especially considering that salaries are not being increased,” said Dr Muchena.

Dr Muchena cited an example of a member who contributed a total of $165 for half a year, but when she fell ill, her medical costs exceeded $97 000.

“The medical aid needs 600 people on main plan to contribute that amount from January to June to serve one patient,” he said. “This is posing serious viability challenges to medical aid companies.”

Dr Muchena said there was need for the introduction of a secondary and tertiary medical specialisation curriculum in the country’s universities to bolster the country’s medical expertise.

Since the promulgation of Statutory Instrument 142 of 2019 which banned the multi-currency system, many service providers in the health sector have been taking advantage of patients by charging exorbitant rates, further pushing away access to health for ordinary Zimbabweans.

Government has reiterated that any new medical costs must be implemented in agreement with medical aid societies, as stipulated by regulations in that sector.

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