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Everyone should unconditionally get medical assistance

12 Feb 2015 at 15:47hrs | Views
The revelation by the Swazi Minister of Health, Sibongile Simelane last week that the Zimbabwean medical health institutions were charging more than forty (40) times higher than charged by other countries in the region, came as a shock and unbelievable considering that Zimbabwe is using borrowed currency which is hard to be accessed by the generality of the people here.

It is surprising that Zimbabwe which is using the multi-currency regime get her health institutions failing to align their fees with those found in the region when the authorities are quite aware that the borrowed currency is hard to get. If a country like Swaziland is charging half a dollar for someone to access medical services, why is it that Zimbabwean health medical centres are charging about twenty ($20) dollars for the same services accessed by the Swazi people?

Minister Sibongile Simelane was clear to say that the payment of half a dollar to a public hospital in Swaziland was enough to make one access both consultation and medication from a hospital there. In Zimbabwe payment of twenty dollars as consultation fee would only make one  see a doctor for consultation who would then give you prescription for you to buy medical remedies like tablets, medicines etc. Is this scenario normal in a country like Zimbabwe which has no currency of its own?

The problem in the country is that people have now commercialized health delivery system to the extent that those with no money can only die unattended at home or even at hospitals. Private and public health centres call for payment of consultation fees before one is attended to and in a situation where one has no money, he/she risks being rejected by such medical health institutions. People die daily while waiting to see doctors with some dying delivering at home as they would have failed to get money for medical attention.

Recently two people died after they were allegedly denied treatment at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare on Sunday 01 February 2015, under unclear circumstances but suspected to have been bordered on the failure by the diseased to pay medical fees for them to be attended to. The two's health  deteriorated while attending a church service at the Prophetic Healing and Deliverance (PHD) Ministries led by Walter Magaya, and were first rushed to West End hospital. The West End hospital authorities allegedly gave first aid to them before referring them to Parirenyatwa hospital where authorities there refused to admit them.

Explanations by the West End authorities that led them to take the two patients to Parirenyatwa hospital was that their hospital which can only accommodate one hundred and twenty (120) patients at a time was full, hence, they had no alternative plan but to take them to Parirenyatwa hospital. At Parirenyatwa, authorities refused to receive the patients as they were allegedly referred by a private hospital, leading to their death without them being attended to.

West End hospital authorities said the two, a 45-year old male who was diabetic and a 17-year old girl was asthmatic, could not be admitted at the hospital, which they say was already full when they arrived. However, authorities at Parirenyatwa hospital refused to admit the two patients, claiming that the hospital's policy does not allow them to take patients referred from private hospitals. 

But close analysis of the two giant hospitals' explanations are not satisfactory in the sense that all the medical staff were quite aware of what needed to be done if confronted with such a matter. It was clear that there was no need for them to play with people's lives when they were supposed to save lives. As such more questions tended to be asked as to find out why those two hospitals bungled with people's lives in that way.

In actual fact, why in the first place the West End hospital authorities chose to take those patients to Parirenyatwa hospital knowing quite well that their working relationship was not proper? Where those two patients the first to be referred to Parirenyatwa by the West End Hospital? Why is it that the West End hospital chose to go to Parirenyatwa not to Baines and Avenues clinic which both seem to be closer to the West End Clinic than Parirenyatwa?

On the other hand was it proper for the Parirenyatwa Hospital to refuse treatment to those patients just because they were coming from a private hospital? What was wrong for the Parirenyatwa Hospital to save lives first and then raise its concern later with the relevant authorities? Was it proper to let the two patients die just because the two hospitals have no good working relationships that could hinder the transferring of patients from one hospital to another?

From the look of things the two patients passed away because of their failure to pay consultation and medical fees to the two hospitals. Since they were coming from a church service may be they had no money to pay to the West End Hospital, hence, they were taken to Parirenyatwa hospital, public institution in the pretext that it would give them medical attention free of charge as a government institution.

Such a miscalculation of events by the West End hospital authorities who rushed the two, to Parirenyatwa hospital caused their death. The failure by the West End hospital to take the two patients to either Baines Hospital or Avenues clinic could be viewed as that the West End hospital did not want to overburden other private medical institutions; hence, a public one in form of Parirenyatwa, was proper.

The working relationship between the two hospitals is clear to them and it is surprising why they used those two patients' dilemma to tell us that they have no working relationship. On the other hand why is it that the West End hospital rushed to Parirenyatwa ignoring Baines Hospital which is nearby even the Avenues clinic? The fact that the two patients had no money was enough reason to take them to the public hospital so that private institutions are not burdened by that.

Such attitudes of staff members towards patients at private hospitals, as witnessed by the shuttling of the two patients between Parirenyatwa and West End hospitals, have shown that private hospitals are good at milking patients before dumping them at government hospitals once their coffers dry up.

As such Zimbabwe's health delivery system should be revitalized and the State should take a serious measure to make sure that everyone access medical attention even though he/she has no money. The Constitution of Zimbabwe, Chapter 29 article 2 calls for the State to "take appropriate, fair and reasonable measures to ensure that no person is refused emergency medical treatment at any health institution". So it is the duty of the state to see that patients are not abused by health institution just because they have no money.

 As such everyone should know that health accessibility is not a priviledge but is a right which everyone should be afforded to without discrimination. For that reason, a hospital is expected to be a place of peace and serenity, but not for a patient to dread paying a visit at a hospital fearing harassment and being neglected by staff till he/she dies.

Source - John Mukumbo
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