Health talk: Unnecessary interference frustrating private medical sector

Dr Johannes Marisa

For long private medical practitioners have been wailing and some have liquidated their practices and headed to the first world countries.

Many practitioners have failed to take off and the tribulations have overshadowed the bright light that is enjoyed in our country. Zimbabwe is one of the most revered countries in Africa with a favourable climate, over 60 minerals and peace. Everyone desires to stay in such a country, alas, the level of human capital migration is unbearable.

The country has faced both political and economic turmoil for the past 20 years thus bringing uncertainty and risk to potential investors.

The medical sector has registered a sluggish growth and millions of dollars are lost every tour from medical tourism in countries like India, South Africa and Australia, among others.

Zimbabwe’s private health sector has stood tall and firm to defend the country especially during the peak of Covid-19 when public health institutions were grossly incapacitated.

Everyone became a soldier, displaying sharp-stabbing spears that threatened the Covid-19 itself. The end result was a clear victory against one of the most dreaded viruses of the century.

The diligence exhibited by medical practitioners deserves special mention. It was unfortunate to lose a good number of practitioners in their line of duty. The level of medical unity which arose during Covid-19 peak shows why wars are easily won when all of the fighters have conspicuous shared values.

Private medical practitioners have faced insurmountable problems in their areas of practice and the braggadocio exhibited by some of the players is nauseating. There are too many illogical rules that are thrown into the medical fray.

Many medical practitioners have faced problems with Medical Aid Societies, respective councils, municipalities who in many instances want to portray a super-hero syndrome. It is not a secret that the supreme health authority is the Health Professions Authority (HPA) that is supposed to coordinate and integrate the functioning and operations of the health professions at the same time ensuring the provision and promotion the enhancement of efficient professional services by members of the health professions.

For any medical institution to open doors, the HPA should carry out thorough inspections and if there are some issues to be attended to, the practitioner in charge is notified so that there is a robust redress.

The Health Professions Authority is the most respected body in medical practice. The most annoying thing is that after one is licenced by the supreme authority, the Association of Health Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFOZ), needs to carry out another inspection to ascertain the suitability of the health facility in the name of grading the institutions.

Practitioners have been vilified left, right and centre and one wonders who wields more power between the regulatory authority or the association of health funders. The same Medical Aid Societies flout payment regulations willy-nilly, some going for as long as 6 months without paying service providers.

There are some medical aid societies that are chronically in the intensive care unit of their lives, alas, they get their licences every year.

Harare Municipal Medical Aid Society (HMMAS) has been facing a myriad of payment challenges since time immemorial.

A faltering business should have a turnaround strategy and it is flabbergasting why the same medical aid society remains a nemesis despite all the cries from the service providers.

Some councils have been giving intolerable misery to practitioners and chief among them is Harare City Council which has tormented private practitioners on the completion of Food Handlers forms.

The city council has illegally fought to maintain dominance on the issue of certification of food handlers by strangulating private health practitioners.

Instrument 41 of 1994 Public Health (Medical Examinations) (Food Handlers) Order 1994 states on Section 3 that no person shall employ and no person shall undertake employment as a food handler unless he has been certified by a medical practitioner registered as such under the Health Professions Act to be free from Typhoid, Enteric fever and any other infectious diseases.

From this clause a medical practitioner can be any medical practitioner, be they from the public or private sector.

Why then do certain councils or municipalities terrorise the private practitioners for certifying food handlers? Is it that the directors of health are above the law?

Councils should remember that practitioners pay their licences for their practices and no one should monopolise such processes!

Practitioners should unite against unnecessary and wanton aggression by too many referees who make private practice unpalatable. The laws of the land should be respected!

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