The Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ) yesterday said there was lack of urgency in dealing with problems in the health sector, resulting in costs dramatically rising with people now being charged in United States dollars despite earning RTGS dollars.

AHFoZ chairperson Stanford Sisya appeared before the Ruth Labode-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health, where he disclosed that the only company supplying oxygen to hospitals in the country, BOC Gases had also upped charges.

He said patients on dialysis, a procedure to remove waste products and excess fluid from the blood when kidneys stop working properly, now fork out US$200 per session which is way out of reach of many Zimbabweans.

“Fuel queues are treated with urgency, but when it comes to healthcare, people are suffering and dying at hospitals or homes, and right now, we only have one source of oxygen and the
company supplying that is charging for its cans which they never used to charge for the oxygen container,” Sisya said.

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“Now patients are asked to pay ZWL$28 rentals per cylinder for oxygen and the costs have gone up.”
Chinhoyi MP Peter Mataruse (Zanu PF), a member of the committee and a medical practitioner, said while Feruka was producing oxygen, BOC Gases was monopolising the supply of oxygen to hospitals because the infrastructure for oxygen at hospitals was theirs.

“BOC Gases owns the infrastructure at hospitals and so Feruka cannot go into their containers to supply oxygen,” Mataruse said.

The committee said it would be better for the oxygen supply companies to agree to share the infrastructure in order to assist sick people that are desperately in need of oxygen.

Sisya said AHFoZ has 29 members with 1,3 million Zimbabweans contributing to their different medical aid schemes (10% of the population). Some of the challenges experienced by members
were that medical services are charged in US dollars and if one cannot fork out hard currency they are charged using black market rates.

“For example, dialysis costs US$200 and it means in RTGS dollars, a patient has to fork out $1 600 per session when they need dialysis three times a week. Our members are not paid in US$ and as AHfoz, we propose that if the RTGS dollars is the official currency, then the US$ should be pulled off because it is causing distortions in the medical sector,” he said.

Sisya added that there were also cases of double-dipping by medical practitioners where, for example, they are reimbursed ZWL$35 by AHFoZ for consultation fees, but they also charge patients US$20 or US$35 as consultation fees.

Specialist doctors are said to be charging as much as US$250.

AHFoZ chief executive officer Shylet Sanyanga said it was sad that drugs for diabetes, for example, were going up with patients forking out US$53.