Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe doctors' dollar demand shock

10 February 2019 - 00:00 By KENNETH MATIMAIRE


Health care is in turmoil as doctors call for prices to be set in US dollars.
The Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZiMA) has asked the Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe to approve dollar tariffs. It has not yet had a reply.
Meanwhile, pharmacies have been charging for medicines in forex for months, and a string of medical aid societies have asked members to pay contributions in dollars since January 1.
Gerald Gwinji, the permanent secretary in the health ministry, said tariffs approved and gazetted in 2014 were still binding for all medical associations.
"There is no new firmed-up tariff as yet. What is circulating on social media are internal consultations within ZiMA," he said.
"Their final suggestions and those of the medical aid societies will be used as a basis of consultations for agreed tariffs. The various modes of transacting as given by government still stand."
In 2014, the government pegged consultation fees for general practitioners at $35 and fees for specialist services at $120. These prices have been eroded by fluctuations between the dollar and local payment forms, which officially trade at par. On the black market, the bond note is now worth a quarter of the dollar.
The Medical Services Act of 2002 recognises only one of two medical tariffs at a time: an agreed tariff by medical associations or a gazetted tariff by the ministry of health.
ZiMA, the only representative body for doctors, has proposed tariffs, in forex only, of $35 for general practitioners, $30 for dentists, $100 for paediatricians, $50 for gynaecologists and $80 for physicians, orthopaedic, ophthalmic and general surgeons.
Reaction to the proposed tariffs has been swift from members of the public, who said health care would be unaffordable.
"There should be no increment whatsoever, more so in foreign currency," said Silas Mwamuka, a teacher in Mutare.
"Where would we get it when government is paying us in RTGS [real-time gross settlement]? Right now people are forced to buy medicines in foreign currency .
"So any thought of entertaining a medical tariffs increment is signing our death sentence."

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