Mukudzei Chingwere and Freedom Mupanedemo
Public hospitals can handle the Covid-19 case-load for free and there is no need for anyone to pay exorbitant fees demanded by private providers for Covid-19 testing and treatment.
Responding to concerns about the costs of private treatment, the Ministry of Health and Child Care said Government hospitals and other public institutions run by local authorities, including in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru and Mutare were offering free testing and other services.
“Government is offering all services provided by private hospitals,” said the ministry’s spokesperson Mr Donald Mujiri.
“Government is offering testing, admission, treatment surgery for Covid-19 patients, and in some cases follow-up.”
Medical Superintendent at Gweru Provincial Hospital Dr Fabian Mashingaidze said Government institutions are admitting Covid-19 patients for free.
Gweru Provincial Hospital has one of the best Covid-19 patients centres partly-funded by a local private company.
“We are admitting patients for free and we have one of the best Covid-19 centre at the hospital after we received some funding. We also have ventilators at the centre and we have been admitting patients at our new facility,” said Dr Mashingaidze.
Some private hospitals are charging in excess of US$5 000 for admission of Covid-19 patients.
On top of the fixed admission fees, the patients are required to pay an additional US$100 or more per day depending on the condition of the patient.
Most people say they prefer home-based care partly because of steep hospitalisation fees. Generally at least 85 percent of patients can be treated at home, with varying levels of hospital care needed for the rest.
“It is a very difficult situation which we are facing because for one to be accepted in a private hospital, you need to have at least US$3 000 cash upfront for non-Intensive Care Unit patients who are exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms and US$5 000 for those seeking ICU admission. The figures are just too high,” said Mr Edmore Nherera, who said he had a relative turned away after failing to fork out US$3 000.
“It is by God’s grace that my relative is recovering at home in isolation, but what about many who fail to raise such amounts. They are dying at home,” he said.
Another person who declined to be named said he was paying US$300 per day at a private hospital for a close relative.
Director for a leading private hospital in Gweru, Dr Josaya Tayi, said the charges were standard and were in tandem with many other private hospitals throughout the country.
“In the Midlands, we are actually the lowest, check with other private hospitals in Bulawayo and Harare and you will find out the money being charged by private hospitals in Midlands is low,” he defended their charges.
Dr Tayi said it was costly to attend to Covid-19 patients with personal protective equipment for an individual health official going for US$80.
“So imagine that figure of US$80 for a single medical staff and with over 10 medical staff at the institution, how much does that translate to? It’s very costly,” he said.