HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsArts industry needs some form of medical insurance cover

Arts industry needs some form of medical insurance cover

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Guest Column: JOHANNES MARISA
This week started on a sad note with the passing away of socialite Genius “Ginimbi” Kadungure in a horrific accident on Sunday morning. Monday was to become another sorrowful date when the nation lost the legendary Lazarus “Gringo” Boora, who had a lengthy battle with cancer of the stomach.

The man was in pain, but he fought his war until he breathed his last on Monday morning while surrounded by relatives. May the two rest in eternal peace.

Arts encompass a diverse range of human activities, creations and ways of expression including music, literature, film, sculpture and painting. The industry is phenomenal, but has been robbed of great people whose memories will linger in our minds for a long time.

The likes of Leonard Dembo, Tongai Moyo, Simon Chimbetu, James Chimombe, John Chibadura, Daiton Somanje, Biggie Tembo, Fanuel “System” Tazvida, Safirio “Mukadota” Madzikatire, Phillip “Paraffin” Mushangwe, Simon “Mutirowafanza” Shumba and Gringo himself were all great and respected in their specific fields.

They are gone today, but their legacy remains. It is sad that some of these artistes succumbed to conditions that are treatable, but because of financial incapacitation, they could not seek medical attention early, resulting in complications.

While I agree that the economy moves in cycles, which include recession, depression, trough or growth, it is prudent that healthcare should always be catered for.

It seems so many artists are not insured medically at the moment, leaving them highly vulnerable as accessibility to medical care becomes a challenge in times of need.

I agree that those who are still healthy and flourishing may not see the importance of medical insurance, but medical challenges are faced by everyone and anytime on any day. Road traffic accidents can occur anytime, cancers can be growing gradually in the system, COVID-19 may attack anytime, malaria can also strike while other non-communicable illnesses like heart disease, hypertension, diabetes can hit anyone. It is time for one to prepare for their future.

It is sad to report the lack of unity among artistes, but many would want to wear fake faces of love when one of them departs. Where was the same love during the times of need? Why do artistes not even organise a fundraising gala for colleagues?

When I was invited by the widows of departed celebrities to assist them in fundraising for their association, I got touched and infuriated that one prominent musician’s wife actually discouraged her husband from participating in the gala.

The gala was never to materialise, leaving the organisers Eunice Dembo (Dembo’s widow), Barbra Tazvida (System’s widow), Ratidzai Tembo (Biggie’s widow) and Mrs Mashakada (Mashakada’s widow) hopeless. It is wise to always remember that anyone can be a widow or widower anytime so tomorrow may be a different day.

Lazarus Boora was attended to by so many doctors under the banner of Medical and Dental Private Practitioners Association of Zimbabwe which is a grouping of private practitioners in Zimbabwe who include doctors, nurses, radiographers, dentists, laboratory scientists to mention but a few. With such an collection of practitioners, life was made easy for him as the association has all the required professionals in one umbrella.

At least 8 doctors attended to him while Westview Clinic consented to his admission. Laboratory services were provided for by both Interpathy and Diagnopathy laboratories free of charge.

Radiological services were provided by Makonese Ruwa Radiology Centre that worked with Dr Chinogurei’s Diagnostic Imaging Centre. All these were free services.

No costs were thus accrued by family members. I saw the importance of unity in the medical field and the nation should know that the association will always be there for the needy. It is my belief that the arts industry can be salvaged in terms of health insurance by considering the following:

By creating a solid and affordable fund that can cater for all the registered artists in times of need. A low cost medical cover can be unveiled to the artists. This can be individually joined, donor-driven or government sponsored. Artists need regular screening of common diseases like prostate cancer, diabetes, hypertension, cervical cancer, tuberculosis, HIV et cetera. Many artists have suffered strokes from high blood pressure, examples are Marshal Munhumumwe and Lucky Mumiriki. What was needed was a diagnosis of hypertension and subsequent control. Prevention is better than cure!

Authoritative bodies in arts sector like the National Arts Council can partner with medical associations in order for their members to have access to medical care at agreed low rates. The Arts, Sport and Culture ministry can oversee this arrangement that will guarantee affordable healthcare to the industry. This would make life easy for artists since private medical practitioners are dotted around Zimbabwe with their admitting rooms, X-rays, scans, laboratories et cetera.

The artists should unite and speak with one voice. They should urgently move with speed to form an association that will stand for their rights and welfare. I am surprised even the musicians do not have an independent association. In times of need, it is easier to seek assistance as an association than as an individual whose voice will not find takers. After independence in 1980, we had so many artists like Job Mashanda who released the hit song, Vanamukoma Nhongo, and the likes of Patrick Mukwamba with Vapenga Nayo Bonus. Where are these artists today? Who is looking after them? Do we even know where they are today? Who is meeting their medical expenses? It is, thus, of paramount importance to have an association that keeps a register of all these legends. Follow up will be made easy. We, as medical practitioners, stand ready to rescue our legends even for free!

Together, we can move as a country. Feel free to assist the next person in need. Rest in peace Gringo, it was your wish to recover and go back to work, unfortunately, the stomach cancer was too advanced. ’Til we meet again!

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