Health costs shoot up

HARARE - While for the rich access to health is at their fingertips, for the poor it remains a pipe-dream as the prices are often beyond their reach.

Many people are dying from diseases that can be easily treated and health facilities are also on the deathbed as the economic meltdown takes its toll on social services.

A stand-off between doctors and medical aid societies only but spells further gloom for the ones who are health insured.

Although President Robert Mugabe has admonished doctors for putting self-interest first, the irony is not lost considering he is in the habit of flying to the East to get a mere check-up.

Compared to other countries in the region, Zimbabwe‘s medical procedures and medicines are expensive and some pharmacies actually smuggle drugs from foreign lands.

Even a yellow fever vaccine in Zimbabwe is priced triple the price paid for it in other countries.

During a recent debate in Parliament, legislators lamented the plight of patients in Zimbabwe who have no wherewithal to fly out or at least engage private doctors.

“For you to get yellow fever vaccination in Zimbabwe, you need something between $56 and $66.  I have a friend who travelled to Kenya last week without yellow fever vaccination.  When they got to the airport, they were asked to produce the yellow fever vaccination card which they did not have and were told to go to the clinic at the airport and get vaccinated. There was a penalty because they had gone there without yellow fever vaccination.  The yellow fever vaccination plus the penalty is $24 in Kenya and yet in Zimbabwe, it costs between $56 and $66,” MDC legislator for Mabvuku James Maridadi said during a debate in Parliament recently.

“A scan in Zimbabwe, according to Premier Service Medical Aid Society costs $500.  In Kenya, it costs $100 and in South Africa, it costs $90.

“What it means is that medical care in Zimbabwe is very expensive.  It is very expensive to access medical care in Zimbabwe,” said Maridadi.

Adding on to the conversation Chegutu West MP Dexter Nduna said medical operations were too expensive.

“I need to give you a brief on the cost of medical operations here in Zimbabwe.

“I had two of my relatives who underwent operations on their legs.

The operations cost nothing below $3 500. They are going to cost the same amount to remove those implants or the plugs that were planted in those knees and legs. What this means is that because of the economic problems that are currently bedeviling this country, we cannot optimally pay for such services using cash,” Nduna said.

Matabeleland South lawmaker Priscilla Misihairabwi- Mushonga said medical costs in Zimbabwe do not make sense.

“We cannot have other countries charging certain amounts of money and we are asking for large amounts of money.

“I am bringing a motion around mental illness and depression and I will deal with it in direct forms.

“I could not resist raising the issues around the cost of getting medical treatment in this country as compared to other countries.  It is ridiculous and does not make sense,” she said.

During a tour of the blood blank on Wednesday, MPs also revealed that some people living close to the country’s borders with Zambia are importing blood from that country, as it is cheaper.

According to the MPs blood in the neighbouring Zambia costs $50 compared to about $200 charged by Zimbabwean hospitals.

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