BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
THE Ministry of Health has challenged medical aid societies to structure their products in such a way that they are affordable to low-income earners, as healthcare costs continue to rise beyond the reach of many people.
Health ministry permanent secretary Jasper Chimedza, in a speech read on his behalf at the Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ ) stakeholders’ virtual conference in Harare on Wednesday, said affordable packages would increase uptake of healthcare insurance cover.
“As government we will continue to create and promote a conducive operating environment,” he said.
The permanent secretary said government recognised the role of medical aid societies and the private sector in the achievement of the country’s global health objectives.
“Despite the turbulent operating environment, medical aid societies have continued to re-invent themselves in response to the needs of the environment, in order to remain relevant. We would like medical aid societies to continue playing their role,” Chimedza said.
He also applauded AHFoZ for continuing to play its part in the face of the threat of the COVID-19 global pandemic and donating personal protective equipment (PPE) worth more than $1,6 million to the ministry.
Running under the theme Healthcare System Reality Check, COVID-19 Responses, the conference drew various stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem to discuss and share ideas on possible solutions to the problems bedevilling the health sector.
Currently, the sector is grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, a collapsed public health delivery system and a prolonged industrial action by healthcare workers.
“At the top of our priority list is the restoration of the functionality of the public health sector,” Chimedza said, adding that his ministry would strive to address some of the challenges raised by AHFoZ members, particularly healthcare costs.
Costs of healthcare have been increasingly widening the shortfall gap between what service providers charge and what medical aid societies are able to pay.
Of concern also was the issue of member contributions where some employer organisations were not remitting members’ contributions to medical aid societies on time.
AFHoZ also decried the exchange rate discrepancies which were causing erosion of the local currency. This has forced service providers to demand cash up-front.
Private Hospital Association of Zimbabwe (Phaz) chairperson Timothy Goche said hospitals had been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic as they had not budgeted for extra costs for provisions like PPE for staff and construction of isolation rooms.
“This has siginificantly impacted on cash flows and survival of hospitals,” he said.