HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has been given 72 hours to fix the economic challenges that have crippled the healthcare sector or face an urgent constitutional court challenge.
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) said yesterday that the poor state of the country’s health delivery system was ample proof of his administration’s failure to uphold citizens’ rights to health care as provided for by the country’s Constitution and various other charters and conventions that the nation is party to.
“The board resolved and gave government through the ministry of Health and Child Care, the ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe a 72-hour ultimatum to announce measures that will ensure adequate allocation of foreign currency from the central bank for drug procurement,” ZADHR spokesperson Fortune Nyamande told the Daily News.
He said failure by the mentioned authorities to avert the disaster in the health sector will result in ZADHR lodging an urgent constitutional court challenge citing government’s violation of the right to healthcare as provided under international and Zimbabwean law.
Nyamande told the Daily News that the Health minister Obadiah Moyo should urgently address the nation and put in place mechanisms to ensure no Zimbabwean is denied access to essential medicines and healthcare.
“If no remedial action is urgently instituted we shall approach the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, the African Human and People’s Rights Commission and other international bodies for urgent intervention,” he said.
Nyamande’s remarks came against the backdrop of a threat from the Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe to start charging subscriptions in United States dollars in order for medical aid companies to be afforded services if the worsening economic challenges continue.
Pharmacists have also warned that many lives could be lost as a result of the government’s failure to avail the necessary foreign currency to purchase essential drugs.
According to the Retail Pharmacists Association (RPA), the shortage of foreign currency is negatively affecting the supply chain of essential drugs.
“More than 80 percent of medicines in Zimbabwe are imports and they heavily rely on foreign currency. Those manufactured locally require active ingredients which are imported hence require foreign currency.
“We, as an organisation, are in the process of engaging different arms of government to advocate for prioritisation of medicines and medical devices to alleviate the looming crisis in the country,” the RPA said in a statement, adding:
“We hope that this will be resolved swiftly by the responsible ministry to restore calm. The pharmaceutical sector urgently requires foreign currency allocation. The RPA fervently prays that no single Zimbabwean life will be lost due to medicine unavailability whilst these engagements are ongoing.”
To compound matters for Zimbabweans, effective Monday, all new outpatient patients will now be required to pay a US$100 as core payment or equivalent electronic transfer at that day prevailing rates in line with a position taken by the National Physicians Association of Zimbabwe at their Annual General meeting in Victoria Falls recently.
“For a review patient; to fill in a claim form and pay a core payment of $50 USD cash or equivalent electronic transfer on that day prevailing rates. For inpatient admissions; to fill claim form and pay a shortfall of $500 cash or equivalence on transfer (this is for the first 5 days).
“For high dependency unit and critical care; to pay $850 cash or equivalence. No medical aid component. The patient will seek reimbursement from their medical aid. We now await colleagues who do procedures to advise on their new tariffs,” read part of the National Physicians Association of Zimbabwe AGM resolutions.
Some physicians who spoke to the Daily News on condition of anonymity said one of the reasons why the cost of healthcare was going up was the fact that some health suppliers had practically formed a cartel.
They argued that the few licensed suppliers were profiteering because of the absence of competition from alternative sources.
“There are very few companies that can import drugs. They buy them for very little money and charge us exorbitant amounts. By the time the drugs get to Zimbabwe they
are extremely expensive forcing us to also raise the price to stay afloat as a business while also trying to give people a service,” said one local pharmacist.