Medical practitioners need stake in medical practices

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THE medical sector in Zimbabwe boasts of well-trained medical workers who include doctors, scientists, pharmacists, nurses, physiotherapists among others. The country has become a training ground for many countries who eventually come to snatch the qualified personnel to their countries. Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and England have all rushed to recruit and select from Zimbabwe.

Consequently, there is mass exodus of health workers. The working conditions in our country are deemed unfit for staff retention as there is poor remuneration, loss of motivation and job insecurity. Many health workers are languishing in poverty as they fail to send their children to school. Inflation is sky-rocketing with resultant degradation of disposable income.

There are many registered health institutions in Zimbabwe and some of them have been operating for some time now. For a medical practice to be operational, the initial application is sent to the respective medical council. For doctors and dentists, the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe (MDPCZ) is the mother body that looks at the feasibility of the purported operation. The council examines the applications before forwarding the papers to the Health Professions Authority (HPA). The HPA is the apex health regulatory body that co-ordinates the functions and operations of all the health professions councils in Zimbabwe that include the Medical Laboratory and Clinical Scientists Council of Zimbabwe, Allied Health Practitioners Council, Nurses Council of Zimbabwe, Pharmacist Council of Zimbabwe, Natural Therapists Council, Environmental Health Practitioners Council and the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe.

Section 124 (2a) of the Health Professions Act dictates that all pharmacies should operate with majority of shareholders being registered pharmacists and the majority in value of shares should be held by registered pharmacists. This automatically means that pharmacies are registered as companies and not as mere sole proprietorship. This means all company documents should be available with the chief document, CR14, clearly showing the directorship and their corresponding share values. This is the way to go for other health professionals who have allowed themselves to be abused for long by cunning businessmen who only want to use their certificates to register medical practices, only to dump them later when they feel threatened somehow. It is time that medical practitioners restore the practice to themselves after spending all the years memorising anatomy, physiology, embryology at school. Many medical practitioners are languishing in poverty despite the fact that some of them were the faces behind some of the biggest health institutions in Zimbabwe. The error was that their certificates were valulessly left hanging in offices without even a 5% stake in the shareholding of the same companies they aided in the registration process.

Medical practices that are run by mere businessmen have higher chances of doing clandestine operations as the rich owners usually refuse to take advice from the medical practitioners. There are many health institutions in the country that operate without the required staff and the owners are after profits at the expense of quality health service delivery. The registering practitioners may not even supervise operations because there is no sense of ownership hence the surreptitious and objectionable practices that are observed. It is high time medical practitioners demand a legally-binding ownership of the health institutions that they have registered in their names.

The proper presentation of paperwork to the respective councils should be the first step and it should be mandatory for all councils to allow only registrations that come as companies and not individuals. The presentation of the CR14 should clearly show the practitioner with the value of shareholding clearly stated. Zimbabwe Revenue Authority has been at loggerheads with many health practitioners who are registered as individuals and the issuance of tax clearance becomes an uphill task. For this to work, there should be constitutional amendment or insertion of Section 101 (2b) of the Health Professions Act of 2004 where a health institution applicant can be asked to provide further particulars concerning the health institution concerned.