MATER Dei Hospital in Bulawayo, a private health institution, is demanding a deposit of US$5 000 from Covid-19 patients who need intensive care unit (ICU) hospitalisation, a jaw-dropping amount in a country where most formally-employed people are earning the equivalent of US$20 per month.
Founded in the 1950s by Franciscan Catholic nuns, the hospital is also demanding a US$3 000 deposit for general ward hospitalisation and US$60 for casualty, according to a memorandum dated July 1. It is the first hospital to exclusively offer Covid-19 hospitalisation to private patients.
“Kindly be advised that all Covid-19 patients are required to pay USD deposits, US$60 for casualty, US$3 000 for general ward and US$5 000 for ICU hospitalisation,” the memorandum, signed by the hospital’s credit analyst Obidience Ncube, reads.The hospital administrators refused to explain to the Zimbabwe Independent how the fees were arrived at.
The exorbitant charges come at a time public hospitals are struggling to provide adequate care to Covid-19 patients due to inadequate equipment and materials, as well as a shortage of staff.
Government health workers have embarked on a strike, saying they are incapacitated to continue reporting for duty.Journalist Zororo Makamba was the country’s first Covid-19 death on March 23, with his family blaming the government for failing to provide critical care at the main public Covid-19 isolation centre, Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital in Harare.
His death was a wake-up call to government officials and private healthcare providers who then mobilised for the capacitation of public and private facilities to deal with the pandemic.
Private facilities that have opened their doors to Covid-19 patients, particularly in Harare, are treating both private and public patients. Those that cannot pay are treated for free.
The Covid-19 cases continue rising in Zimbabwe, with the country recording 605 infections and seven deaths as at July 1.