REPORTS that some private hospitals, especially in Harare, are reportedly charging extortionate amounts to treat COVID-19 patients are worrying, if not unsettling, for the country’s citizens.
In almost all the cases, people do not choose to be positive to the virus, the pandemic attacks people indiscriminately. Trying to cash-in on other people’s misfortune and predicament is not only unfortunate, but disquieting.
When the pandemic broke out in March 2020, companies, individuals put heads together to try to find a long lasting solution. This included helping others who had no means to fight the virus. Some companies provided personal protective equipment to doctors, nurses and other frontline workers. Others provided face masks and sanitisers to vulnerable communities with limited means to battle the pandemic.
Some individuals donated their buildings to work as isolation centres. It showed the unity in determination to fight the pandemic that has decimated communities and brought world economies to its knees. Others took time from their busy schedule to treat patients, not limited to those with COVID-19 and formed advocacy groups to ensure the citizens had the right information to informed decisions.
Thus, it was disturbing when the family of a COVID-19 patient whose member had been found positive to the virus was treated at a private hospital, gave shocking details of how patients were being made to pay.
Though not all private clinics or doctors are involved, the defence by Vivek Solanki, owner of Trauma Centre, that the charges were fair because they were importing everything at a huge cost, are unfathomable. What happened to Hippocratic Oath to treat the ill to the best of one’s ability and so on? We thought the oldest binding document in history was still being held sacred by our physicians.
No wonder why Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga uses a combative approach and in situations like these, such comes in handy.
We are aware that the Johannes Marisa-led the Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association, an inclusive body of medical practitioners in private practice, has worked well with government, whose hospitals are in poor state, to fight the pandemic and the collaborative effort was bearing fruits.
Government, if what Solanki said is true, should surely consider removing duties on medical consumables brought in by private health institutions and doctors. If the government removed duty on farm implements to promote agricultural productivity, what should stop it from doing the same to doctors, who work so hard to keep us health in the face of this pandemic?
The whole value chain needs a re-look even though the country is grappling with the pandemic. We’re all here to serve, and do business of course. A balance is required and we will argue that a positive work relationship can be achieved for the benefit of our citizens.