Govt risks thousands of lives as PSMI doctors strike

HARARE - Government's failure to remit millions of dollars to the Premier Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas) could cost thousands of people their lives after doctors at Premier Services Medical Investment (Psmi) went on strike yesterday, resulting in the closure of clinics and hospitals across the country.

Psmi is an investment arm of Psmas and runs clinics and hospitals and since January, government has not remitted $44 million collected from civil servants, who make the bulk of the clients at the country’s biggest medical insurer.

Let alone, government failed to remit $94,6 million owed to Psmas which means that Treasury must pay the medical insurer, more than $138 million, the bulk of which is for paying service providers and salaries for the 2 000 workers at Psmi.

Government and Psmas reached an agreement recently where Treasury would pay at least $10 million a month, which it has failed to do, resulting in workers who include doctors, nurses and administration staff failing to get their salaries on time.

A strike of such magnitude could have devastating effects on the health delivery system of the country given that Psmas has nearly 800 000 members, meaning the people who get treatment through Psmas could be well over 2 million if dependents are included.

Psmi business development and customer relations manager, Nhamo Marandu confirmed the strike action but insisted that they had not been officially notified.

“Because we have no official communication from the practitioners, we are not in a position to say whether it is because of the salary arrears that they are not at work. It is true that we are lagging behind in the payment of salaries as the institution battles the prevailing liquidity crunch that is bedevilling most institutions, a situation not peculiar to Psmi.

“Our practitioners have gone for more than five (5) months with no salary. This has not affected their productivity as they continue to bravely serve between 350 000 and 400 000 patients each month.

“As management, we are deeply indebted to our practitioners as they have risen above our current challenges and remained focused on the reason for our existence; to preserve, save and promote life. Going for a period of 5 months without a salary is indeed a sacrifice. We are so proud of our practitioners’ commitment to duty.

“Our hospitals are now attending to in-patients and emergency cases only. We, however, continue to do all in our power to keep the ship afloat. We have engaged all our stakeholders for us to be able to manage this crisis. We continue to engage our biggest debtor Psmas who in turn continue to engage government. Psmas currently owes us $44 million. Let me hasten to say that our business model remains viable and self-sustaining. If we get the $44 million our operations are back to normal. In fact, all we immediately need is $20 million for our operations to normalise.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Labour minister Priscah Mupfumira said dialogue between government and the Psmas board was needed to try and deal with the prevailing situation.

“This is not about individuals, it’s about thousands of civil servants who get medical care through Psmas. During the previous administration at Psmas, there was a lot of anomalies resulting in the firing of the then bosses. Now there is a new board but we have not really met to make sure we iron out the problems together.

“Yes, the constitution of Psmas makes it difficult for government to intervene but the bulk of their members are civil servants who fall under my ministry so I have to be concerned when they fail to get medical attention. There was an audit report at Psmas but the board has not yet fully implemented it and we need the board to tell us where they are now.

“We need updates so that together we resolve the problems at hand. I think we are just missing each other on simple issues which can be resolved if we meet with the board. All we need is for Psmas to explain to us exactly what is happening in terms of implementation,” Mupfumira told the Daily News.

A brief statement from Psmi doctors said: “We have collectively decided that we cannot continue to work in the absence of payment for work from previous months. We will therefore join and support the strike action undertaken by our permanent colleagues. We have made previous communication to this matter and have been promised payments which until now have not materialised.”

Comments (3)

The crux of the matter is failure by treasurer to remit those premium deductions from public servants and government pensioners.Once those premiums are remitted to PSMAS the pmsi hospitals would be back to their feet,simple and straight forward.Stories of Curthbed Dube having stolen all the money from psmas are neither here nor there.

vivian v siziba - 24 November 2015

but the report doesn't say the number of doctors

reydza - 25 November 2015

The stealing of PSMAS funds by Curthbert Dube and his Board is no folk story but a fact and factor proved by authentic auditing and still remains the major cancer that has triggered this calamitous paralysis at the institution, whilst the Government watches in akimbo.

Mukanya - 25 November 2015

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