HARARE - Health experts have said Zimbabwe can become an oasis of medical tourism in the wake of the successful separation of conjoined twins at Harare Hospital.
Twins Kupakwashe and Tapiwanashe Chitiyo, who were conjoined from the pelvis to the breastbone, were successfully separated last week by a team of local surgeons.
Such twins are rare, occurring in about one out of every 200 000 live births, experts say. But the recent birth of conjoined twins and successful separation at Harare Hospital have put local healthcare in the spotlight.
Rutendo Bonde, Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) chairperson, said the development speaks to medical professionals’ commitment to service.
“This is indeed a commendable feat that the team of health professionals performed,” Bonde said. “It is a testimony of dedication and skill demonstrated by our local surgeons.”
From the milestone, government sees business opportunities.
“It shows Zimbabwe can get back to be an oasis of medical tourism where it will make sense for those in the region to start here than Canada,” said David Parirenyatwa, Health and Child Care minister.
However, Bonde said the Zanu PF-led government should first prioritise wider coverage and access to such high quality services locally.
“Our public health care needs to continue to be strengthened in terms of infrastructure and equipment, keep staff motivated for high quality service which is affordable, available and accessible — elements critical to the realisation of the right to health, which is a fundamental constitutional entitlement,” she said.
Itai Rusike, Community Working Group on Health executive director, while commending everyone who made the surgery possible in a harsh economy, said poverty remains a barrier to health care services.
“Millions of people continue to experience financial catastrophe every year from out-of-pocket health costs,” Rusike said. “There are glaring inequalities in health service coverage and quality, shaped by social, economic and political factors depriving the majority of Zimbabweans that need health services.”
According to Rusike, unless Zimbabwe starts prioritising the poorest and disadvantaged segments of its population, health outcomes will remain dismal.
“We need to prioritise the needs of the poorest, disadvantaged and most vulnerable segments of the population, aiming to achieve equitable healthcare access and health outcomes across all relevant dimensions, including socioeconomic status, gender, age, geography, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation,” Rusike said.