Health services profiteering from pandemic

Word on the street is that Covid-19 is taking only the big boys, businesspeople and politicians. No, that’s a myth; it’s taking everybody. But, as is usual, the big boys make the headlines while the small boys die anonymous deaths.

Nevanji Madanhire

The big boys die in medical facilities; the small ones die in their homes. That’s the worrying bit. The big boys can afford the fees the facilities demand; the small boys can’t! Our society has, more than at any time in recent history, been stratified again, thanks to this marauding disease.

At the top of the pyramid are the rich and the politicians; at the bottom of the pyramid is everyone else.

This is because of the extortionist fees that medical facilities are charging. A quick survey of these facilities shows that the cheapest of them will demand US$1500 on admission and, subsequently, US$500 for each doctor’s visit and this is before they send you to the pharmacy, where everything costs an arm and a leg and is charged only in hard currency.

But that’s devilish! Medical facilities are cashing in on the pandemic and they wouldn’t care less.

But how did we get here?

Minister of Health and Child Care Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga has reassured the nation that the country’s medical facilities are not yet overwhelmed with the number of cases of people seeking medical attention. After information circulated on social media that the facilities are up to their necks with Covid-19 cases, he said in a statement last Friday:

“It would be, however, an exaggeration at this stage, to suggest that our health institutions are overwhelmed by cases of Covid-19.

“Admittedly, the recent escalation of cases of the pandemic in the country caused a high demand for health care. Nonetheless, let me reassure citizens that Zimbabwe’s public and private health institutions still have adequate capacity to offer health services to all patients.

“In light of widely circulating reports alleging that there is a serious deficit of hospital beds, let me point out that these were ‘embellished’ social media allegations by some pen-mercenaries.”

That is correct in a way but very wrong in another. The beds may be free but it’s not because there are no people who need them, but because it’s almost impossible for anyone to be admitted into the wards due to the stringent prerequisites for admission.

Before one is admitted one has to undergo a Covid-19 test; that would be fine if that was done free at public medical facilities. But no, the patient has to pay for it at private laboratories.

And, Oh mum, the fees! The cheapest facility will demand US$30 for a quick test while the standard fee is pegged at US$60. Only the big boys can afford that. The beds are free Cde VP but not for the want of patients who need them, but for the buccaneering love of money that has gripped everyone with a stethoscope hanging in their neck.

But why is it so if the government is really serious about saving lives? Why is that testing is not made free for bottom of the pyramid patients, the majority of whom are now dying ignoble deaths in their homes?

The big boys are buying themselves bottles of oxygen, which, it goes without saying, is beyond the reach of the poor who cannot even afford the drips that are necessary to keep them intravenously treated and fed.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of an apocalypse, for that is what the second wave is! Our government has been caught flat footed.

In the first wave, it was the corruption that nearly scuppered efforts to control the spread, but in the new wave, it’s the government’s total lack of concern for the poor as medical facilities seek to profiteer from the pandemic.