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Medical aid firms ‘straying from core business’

ZIMBABWE’S leading medical aid societies, Premier Services Medical Aid Society (Psmas) and Cimas have been accused of straying from their core business of providing medical insurance and venturing into provision of health services.

Report by Herbert Moyo

Doctors are complaining that this venture is threatening the viability of private medical practitioners and short-changing clients.

Sources said the two medical aid societies’ provision of hospital services is not in keeping with their mandate of simply providing health insurance to members.

“They have been using their financial muscle to acquire their own hospitals and laboratories resulting in competition with doctors. This has seen the societies refusing or delaying to honour payments for members who choose to visit facilities they don’t own,” said a doctor who requested anonymity.

Some medical laboratories in Harare currently display notices informing Cimas and Psmas members to pay cash for all services due to the on-going wrangle.

Psmas reportedly bought the Medical Centre in Harare for US$7 million last month and immediately sought to hike rentals by 67% as a way of consolidating its market position.

The move will affect more than 40 doctors who have been renting the facility where they provide various services, including X-rays and tests for chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes and HIV/Aids.

Reads a letter written by Dr Christopher Pasi who leads the tenants occupying the premises: “The 67% increase is an attempt to destroy the viability of the medical profession. It amounts to profiteering given that inflation is at 5% per annum.” The letter was addressed to the permanent secretary in the ministry of health Dr Gerald Gwinji and President Robert Mugabe’s special health adviser Dr Timothy Stamps.

Pasi dismissed claims medical aid societies were providing medical services to cushion their members against exorbitant charges by doctors.

“That was just a convenient argument they made to enter the fray but once they were in they started to charge the same tariffs we charge.

For example, West End hospital which is owned by Psmas will charge the same tariffs as any other similar grade hospital,” Pasi said.

The doctors also argued that patients no longer have the freedom to choose specialists of their choice as they are forced to go to facilities owned by the medical societies knowing they would not make excess payments.

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