EDITORIAL COMMENT: Private hospitals must stop fleecing members of the public

The Chronicle

Private health institutions are demanding as much as US$700 deposit and up to US$250 per night for patients admitted, which is not affordable to the majority of people. A survey conducted by our sister paper Sunday News revealed that most private hospitals are charging prohibitive fees which even medical aid societies cannot afford thereby putting the lives of Zimbabweans at risk. 

A private hospital in Bulawayo’s city centre is charging an admission deposit of US$700 and US$250 per day excluding the cost of drugs. A patient has to pay US$150 deposit and US$50 per day for a general ward at the same hospital.  

The hospital also charges US$300 theatre deposit. Another hospital is charging US$108 per night or RTGS equivalent using the going rate.  Those on Medical Aid have been asked by Medical Aid societies to reduce their visits to doctors and hospitals because of the private hospitals’ prohibitive charges. 

Government hospitals fees remain affordable and as such the hospitals are overwhelmed by numbers of patients seeking services thereby compromising quality. The private hospitals’ charges per night are more than what top-notch hotels are charging and this is very ridiculous. 

The hospitals are there primarily to save lives and not to profiteer as what we are witnessing now. We are very cognisant of the need for hospitals to operate viably so that they continue providing the services but what is obtaining on the ground is that private hospitals are now fleecing patients taking advantage of their desperate situation. 

Families and individuals are being forced to sell properties to raise money required by hospitals thereby reducing the sick and their relatives to destitution. It is now cheaper for individuals to seek medical services outside the country compared to seeking treatment at local private             hospitals. 

The late Vice President Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo must be turning in his grave because he was totally against Zimbabweans seeking specialist services outside the country. Zimbabweans unfortunately have no option but to seek treatment outside the country because private hospitals that are supposed to provide these services are charging prohibitive fees.

Ekusileni Medical Centre which has remained a white elephant for years was built in honour of Dr Nkomo. The 200-bed hospital built at a cost of about $4 million and completed in 2001, is meant to provide specialist medical services. 

Many dates have been given for the re-opening of this state- of- the- art medical facility which operated for just seven months before it was closed in 2004 after failing to raise working capital to buy medical and diagnostic equipment. 

It is hoped the opening of the hospital will provide services at affordable fees since it was built by public funds. We want at this juncture to appeal to private hospitals to urgently reduce their fees to affordable levels given that their mission should be to save lives as opposed to profiteering by fleecing desperate patients. 

The present fees have not taken into account the prevailing economic challenges that have seen many families failing to afford even the basics such as food and shelter.