ZIMBABWE has been plunged into yet another health crisis as hospital fees have sharply risen, well beyond the affordability of most citizens, with most private health institutions now demanding payment in United States dollars or the parallel market equivalent in bond notes or RTGS payments.
A snap survey by the Zimbabwe Independent also revealed that patients on medical aid are bearing the brunt of the spike in medical fees as they are saddled with huge shortfalls.
This comes as private practice doctors and specialists have also proposed US dollar charges for their services amid critical drug shortages.
Unlike government officials who seek medical treatment outside the country, most Zimbabweans have to do with government hospitals.
The survey showed that admission deposits at private hospitals range from US$150 to more than $1 000 bond.
Some are even charging US$100 for a day’s treatment.
Charges exclude doctors and specialist services.
Expectant mothers are now faced with limited options for maternal healthcare and are now relying on the ill-equipped government facilities and municipal clinics, as private maternal homes are now charging astronomical fees for regular ante-natal care and delivery.
One of Harare’s top private hospitals, the Avenues Clinic, is now charging $945 bond, plus US$50 and an additional $50 for booking fees for normal delivery without medical aid cover.
Delivery through caesarian operation requires $2 078, plus US$250 and $50 booking fee. Patients on medical aid have to pay $498 plus US$50 and the $50 booking fee.
Thyroidectomy, an operation that involves the surgical removal of all or part of the thyroid gland, attracts a $3 040 fee plus US$350 for a three-day stay at the clinic. Appendectomy, the surgical removal of the appendix, requires a $2 078 deposit plus US$350.
An inquiry at Baines Hospital in Harare indicated that the institution is charging $600 plus US$100 for a normal baby delivery while a caesarian section costs
$1 500 and an additional US$250 deposit.
Borrowdale Private Hospital is charging $1 650 plus US$200 for medicines on patients without medical aid cover for three nights.
Patients on medical aid will have to part with $400 plus US$200 for medicines.
At Healthpoint medical facility, consultation is $60 during the day and $90 after hours, while observation costs $118. Admission costs range from $200 to US$30.
At Corporate 24 Hospital, a deposit of US$150 is required upfront for a bed in a general ward.
Medical aid societies told the Independent that they have been trying to meet with doctors’ representatives to solve the impasse, but the physicians have not honoured several promises for meetings.
“A National Tariff Liaison Committee meeting which was scheduled for February 1 was cancelled as the Zimbabwe Medical Association (Zima) representatives were said to be unavailable. Zima office promised that they will propose another date for the liaison meeting,” Association of Health Funders of Zimbabwe chief executive Shylet Sanyanga said.
“Generally, hospitals and doctors are still accepting the medical aid card though some are charging shortfalls in US dollars whilst some are charging shortfalls in RTGS, but market forces will soon come into play.
RTGS transactions are valid. Health funders are working with service providers who are cooperative. Not all service providers require foreign currency to run their day-to-day operations.”
Initial consultation fees were pegged at US$35 (or equivalent) and subsequent visits cost US$30. A visit to the dentist, if the tariffs are approved, would be pegged at US$30, while paediatricians would charge a consultation fee of US$100 and US$70 for reviews.
Consulting a gynaecologist would cost US$50, while orthopaedics and general surgeons would charge US$80.