Minister puts lives of thousands at risk

HARARE - Angered by the suspension of Public Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas) boss Henry Mandishona, the minister of Labour, Prisca Mupfumira is refusing to release $10 million funds to the organisation meant for medicines and service providers thereby throwing thousands of patients’ lives at risk, the Daily News has established.

Of the $10 million meant for Psmas, $2,5 million was already ready for disbursement while the other $7,5 million has been withheld at Treasury as Mupfumira is claiming that the money will be abused at Psmas yet most of the money is desperately needed at the organisation’s investment arm, the Premier Services Medical Investments (PSMI) which runs clinics and hospitals.

The other money is needed at other health insurance service providers like Cimas and in the end hospitals and doctors are refusing to treat Psmas patients as the minister keeps holding on to the cash.

Mupfumira herself confirmed this at a parliamentary workshop in Victoria Falls last week where Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa warned that government had no say in the running of Psmas.

The latest and intriguing Psmas saga was ignited by Mupfumira together with minister of Health David Parirenyatwa when they issued a bizarre directive to the Psmas board demanding that it reinstate Mandishona.

Curiously, both Parirenyatwa and Mupfumira have somewhat controversially-benefited through a somewhat incestuous relationship with Psmas while the Daily News revealed yesterday that the minister had irregularly benefitted from Mandishona’s generosity.

It is now being suggested that Parirenyatwa could have been arm-twisted to issue the joint directive as it was later unearthed that he had been given an advance payment of $77 000 for services he was yet to render.

And Mupfumira has also been caught offside as it has now emerged that when Mandishona was calling the shots at Psmas, the minister’s medical aid package was changed from Pinnacle that is meant for ministers and top ranking government officials where they contribute $50 a month to Prestige, a facility for the lowly-paid civil servants where she now pays only $15 a month.

It turns out that Mupfumira has three other dependents on her medical scheme, meaning that she is paying $60 a month instead of $200 and is the only minister on this scheme.

Sources told the Daily News that when Mupfumira was educated by Chinamasa that government had no legal authority to interfere in Psmas, she explained that she would withhold the funds and pay the service providers direct in another bizarre twist to the saga.

According to sources, Mupfumira’s action will cause a health crisis of huge proportions because the money she is holding on to besides being for critically needed medicines, is meant to pay health workers, including doctors who might down tools due to non payment of salaries.

A ministry of Labour official who spoke to the Daily News yesterday warned that Mupfumira was sitting on a health time bomb which could explode anytime with devastating consequences as Psmas is the biggest medical insurer in the county.

“This is the craziest development in the medical field I have heard ever. Firstly, the minister due to inexperience in government claims that the money will be abused yet it will be transferred to PSMI which buys medicines, pays workers and service providers.

“How can millions of people be made to suffer because certain people are not happy with the suspension of one person, what’s so special about this individual that we all have to endure the shortage of medicines and live-saving equipment?

“Mupfumira fails even to understand that this is not government money but civil servants’ packages. Government pays 74 percent towards medical aid while the worker pays 26 percent.

“It means this money is part of my package which government has an obligation to pay. Even elementary reasoning will tell you that this is not government money in the first place.

“So we all have to suffer because one Mandishona was suspended? Does the minister even know why she was appointed? Is this because she is now paying medical aid of only $60 a month instead of $200 after a deal with Mandishona that she goes to an extent of sacrificing the whole country?

“Even war veterans are members of Psmas so they have to suffer because of Mandishona?”

“I think we need to alert the president because surely we cannot allow people to die because of this,” the official said.

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