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‘Visit general practitioners, not emergency rooms’


FIRST Mutual Health company has warned its medical aid members against using emergency rooms for non-emergency cases, saying people should visit general practitioners instead.


In a circular signed by the general manager Stanford Sisya to its members, the health company said it had realised that people who were not seriously sick were going to the emergency rooms which oftenly charge higher than a visit to a general practitioner.

“First Mutual Health has noted with concern, an upsurge in use of emergency centres for non-emergency conditions,” Sisya said.

“It is against this background that we wish to remind members that emergency centres are supposed to be used for emergency conditions only.”

He said members would incur shortfalls if they use the emergency facilities for non-emergency problems.

“Members may incur unnecessary shortfalls if they access services at these facilities for non-emergency conditions,” Sisya said.

“Members are reminded that the first port of call in the event of sickness should be one’s general practitioner who will assess and manage or refer if necessary. Most conditions during the day can be managed by general practitioners. Some members wait to seek medical attention in the evening, when they could have accessed service during the day.”

Sisya said a condition that qualified for an emergency visit to an emergency centre is when due to its severity, one cannot wait for their usual general practitioner and when one has been involved in an accident or some severe acute incident.
Former Zimbabwe Medical Association secretary-general and a medical practitioner, Douglas Gwatidzo, said there was need for the issue to be addressed and not put blame upon one party.

“We have to address the issue as industry and see how we tackle the issue on how to have members of medical aid using health services,” Gwatidzo said.

“There is a catch-22 for patients who cannot access services during the day, and their general practitioner is not available on the phone to tell them that their condition does not need an emergency room.”

“That is when patients just go to the emergency rooms and some general practitioners because the economy is bad have opted to open the 24-hour emergency rooms and that way they can see patients at night and still make more money.”

Gwatidzo said the problem was that Zimbabwe’s medical industry is facing serious challenges from a financial perspective hence a need for all the stakeholders involved to sit down and map a way forward.

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