‘Econet Dial-A-Doc is illegal’

Shamiso Yikoniko – Health Reporter

ECONET Wireless’s Dial-A-Doc is operating illegally as it is not approved by the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council of Zimbabwe (MDPCZ), an official has said.

The MDPCZ and the Health Professions Authority of Zimbabwe (HPAZ) ruled that mobile phone health services were not supported by law. Econet recently partnered Ponai Medical Centre to offer Dial-A-Doc, which allows patients to access advisory messages from doctors over their phones. The mobile operator charges USc70 per minute for the service.

MDPCZ registrar Mrs Josephine Mwakutuya said: “It is a requirement at law that any form of medical or dental practice in the country be approved by the council.

“This is to ensure that the public is protected from, among other things, incompetent, unprofessional or unethical medical service.

“In the opinion of the council, such an unlicensed service that requires the expertise of doctors is illegal.”

Medical practitioners are required to register as provided for by Section 99 of the Health Professions Act (Chapter 27:19).

“The authority regards telephone health services as illegal, unprofessional and unethical practice as it falls short of minimal standards that must be met in patient care,” said HPAZ in statement.

Mrs Mwakutuya said her council wrote to Econet highlighting reservations over the launch of such a service.

“In both a letter and email dated December 12, 2014, the council wrote to the Econet chief operations manager offering advice that in its proposed Dial-A-Doc practice is medically unprofessional and also illegal.

“To date, the council has not received a response,” she said.

Econet corporate communications manager Mr Ranga Mberi said they have responded to the Council and made sure that the advisory service is in line with the law and all health regulations.

“We advised the Council that Dial-A-Doc is not a medical practice. It merely provides a useful platform through which health advice is offered to subscribers, by fully qualified doctors,” he said.

Moreso, Ponai Medical Centre chief executive officer Dr Peter Mbizvo defended the mobile health service.

“It is a partnership between EcoHealth and us, the health service providers.

“EcoHealth provides the platform while the health practitioners provide an advisory health service solution,” he explained.

“This is not replacing the need for face-to-face consultation. It is an advisory service targeted at the previously marginalised population.

“It is about inclusivity for people who need health care the most but have limited access due to lack of resources and also due to distance. “We have a lot of challenges in our health service delivery system, largely due to lack of resources.

“Dial-A-Doc was driven by the desire to improve access to health information by virtually cutting the distance between a patient and a doctor, and making access to health information easier and more available.”

In South Africa, Hello Doctor, a mobile-based health platform was launched in 2010 by the MTN group. Ghana also has a similar initiative – Vodafone Healthline – which was established in 2013 for Vodafone customers to seek medical advice and diagnosis via cellphones from medical experts.

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  • War Vet

    In a country where the vast majority of people cannot access health facilities this should be applauded. Ordinary people do not have the luxury of hopping off to an overseas destination when they have a problem. When someone has a minor ailment it makes sense to pay $0.70 instead of an extortionate $40 to get assistance. I wish we had at least one person who has Strive Masiiwa’s brains in govt.

    • Respect

      Tanzwa ne econet. Pliz stop your numerous adverts which flow into our phones all day for policies blah blah and other services that we dont understand and that we dont want. Zvanyanya!

      • anon

        No one is forcing you to use their services.

      • brunohzw

        You have power to stop those adverts on your phone

  • Dr Khuraivanavevhu

    This is innovative and should be applauded. What is illegal about it? I think Mrs Mwakutuya is displaying a very conservative approach by his organization. We need to move with times. How I wish I was in Zimbabwe to also access such advice! Well done, Mr Strive Musiyiwa, for not wanting to see your country behind. In WHO, they are encouraging similar approaches to serve mothers’s lives during pregnancy…….eg if she starts fitting at home, in pregnancy, she can dail for advice, which is to immediately tray it as an emergency and rapidly seek specialist care!

    • Truth

      Econet used to be the service provider of the day. However they have over done their marketing by unleashing endless messages onto us. I visited their Avondale office to stop them from sending me these messages. Messages stopped for two or so days, then resumed. Ahhhhh! ini ndanetawo nayo

  • Professor jb

    The MDPCZ of Zimbabwe is talking nonsense!!! We have had Drs on radio programmes – advising patients on a fone in programme. What s wrong with that?? They should come out open on what they really want from Econet. Dial-A-Doctor initiative the world over; has NEVER been registered as a Medical practice. Instead; the MDPCZ must be concerned if the Drs involved have no practising certificates. Pasi nevanhu vasingadi development vanoda kuramba vachirarama in the ancient world! !!

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  • mwana

    The call service is free in other countries and only when you visit the doctor would you be asked to pay for consultation . USc70 per minute ! , apa Dr Peter Mbizvo and Dr Taylor Chieza have just gone greedy with their “Ponai ” business venture .There is nothing for them to defend here but only their greed and desire to finance their celebrity lifestyles .

  • whynoweconet?

    You take my US$1 muEcoCash wallet and allege kuti I have joined ECOSURE this is daylight robbery if there are 1million subscribers with a balance of US$1 in their accounts econet makes a windfall!! fleecing its subscribers. Have we agreed to let you take my $1???? This is daylight thieving by econet!! we need another serious competitor in the mobile phones sector econet is increasingly getting too big for its boots, roughing up its clients!! we used to support the econet project with pride but now its something else!