The Sunday Mail
For the past 103 days — ever since junior doctors decided not to report for work citing incapacitation — patients have been hard-pressed to find convenient alternative institutions where they could find care.
While mission hospitals such as Karanda, Howard in Chiweshe, St Albert’s Mission in Centenary and All Souls Mission in Mutoko have been overwhelmed by desperate patients, the numbers at private medical facilities, especially Grade A health institutions, have been declining owing to “affordability issues”.
Mr Searchmore Chaparadza, chief executive officer of Medical Investments Limited — which runs The Avenues, Montagu and St Clements Clinics — told The Sunday Mail that the number of patients seeking services at the group’s flagship facility, The Avenues Clinic, had dropped by approximately 45 to 50 percent recently.
“As private healthcare providers, we are there to complement the public health delivery system; if there are challenges that side, we normally have an increase. This time, it has not been a significant one as compared to previous years,” he said.
“In terms of the number of patients coming here, it has gone down to, in general, 45 to 50 percent reduction because of affordability issues,” he said.
Although the institution received a number of emergency cases, patients opted to be discharged soon after being attended as they could not afford the services in case of detention.
“We have had instances where emergency maternal or accident cases just show up at our doorsteps (because they are unable to get help at public hospitals). At one time, our staff delivered a baby in the car — the mother came in because it was a dire emergency.
“Some of these people come with no money at all. We do the most we can to keep them alive while they wait to go to other institutions which are not a strain on their pockets,” Mr Chaparadza said.
Service charges for these desperate cases are often written off, he added.
However, the Avenues Clinic is presently carrying out renovations worth US$8 million.
Accessing services at private institutions reportedly does not come cheap.
Consultation fees average $700 (US$35), while surgeries such as cCaesarean sections attract about $7 000.
The job action by doctors at public health institutions, which has been ongoing for the past four months, has compromised service delivery.
Negotiations are still underway, but most doctors have started reporting for duty.
At least 80 doctors had resumed duties by the end of last week.
Most public hospital medical practitioners have been attracted by the $100 million facility by Higher Life Foundation, a non-profit organisation.
A total of 362 doctors have qualified for the six-month fellowship which will offer junior doctors a $5 000 monthly package and free transport services of up to three trips a day.
Higherlife Foundation CEO Dr Kennedy Mubaiwa recently announced that an additional $5 000 will be offered to doctors who will serve during the festive season.
The organisation also launched a “Save our Hospitals” campaign, which is designed to pool resources to equip public hospitals.
The money will go towards procurement of hospital “start-up kits”, comprised of basics that doctors need to do their job.
At the launch of the campaign last week, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe CEO Dr Douglas Mboweni announced that his organisation and its subsidiaries will offer free WiFi at public hospitals for use by medical staff, as well as $1,5 million worth of smartphones for doctors.
The organisation will also facilitate the installation of solar power at selected hospitals and clinics. Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA) president Dr Shingai Nyaguse said there was, however, need for a long-term solution to challenges in the health sector.
“We need to both start looking for a more permanent solution . . . If you remember there was a time we were doing open-heart and hip replacement surgeries here, but because of continual deterioration those programmes have come to a halt.
“Equipment which was procured from India and UAE this year came without manuals and our technicians could not get it to work. The technicians from the actual company that made the equipment came here some two, three weeks ago and even they could not make some of the equipment work,” she said.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care had not responded to questions sent earlier last week by the time of going to print.