HARARE – Pressure is mounting on Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa — who has seemingly gone AWOL — to step up and resolve the intensifying tiff between doctors and medical aid societies.
This comes as over a million citizens are set to be affected by doctors’ decision to reject health insurance cards from July 1, due to insurers owing them $220 million.
This has left millions of patients to pay cash or rely on under-funded State hospitals.
The warring parties have been trying to get Parirenyatwa to intervene on the impasse, but he has not been forthcoming, as he has been out and about attending international meetings from the Vatican City to New York and now Egypt.
This also comes as parliamentarians on Thursday moved a motion to compel the Health minister to intervene or alternatively for President Robert Mugabe to issue an executive statement saying the matter was urgent.
This follows an announcement on Wednesday by the Zimbabwe Medical Association (Zima) that private doctors will be asking for cash upfront from patients for treatment, as health insurance companies were not remitting funds to doctors.
Furthermore, the doctors claimed they were being asked to pay for tax on money they had not yet received.
A letter, the association had written to the minister to resolve the conflict between the doctors and medical insurers as well as a taxing conflict with Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) last month had not yet been replied to.
“We did write a letter to the minister, we are still waiting for that response, in fact we had actually hoped to meet with him on Friday, the meeting had been set but it got cancelled last minute and we felt we had to continue really to explain our position,” Zima president Agnes Mahoma told journalists.
MDC legislator for Matabeleland South Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga called for urgent action as people’s lives were in danger.
“We cannot have individuals standing up and making a decision about what is going to happen to human lives and government is sitting there, watching and doing nothing about it,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga said in Parliament on Thursday.
“The Constitution itself defines that there is right to health and this right to health has to be observed by medical aid societies, doctors and government itself.
“I am surprised that we are sitting here as Members of Parliament and there are no ministers on the front bench. I would have thought that the moment there was this crisis; an urgent Cabinet meeting would have been called to say what is it that we can do about this?
“We need to get at the highest level of government, somebody who is calling for an urgent Cabinet meeting and looking at how this can be resolved. We cannot have another extra 24 hours coming through. If this was happening in some countries, we would be having not a ministerial statement but a presidential statement.”
Zanu PF Chegutu West lawmaker Dexter Nduna said the minister needed to clarify issues as the announcement had caused panic.
“As I conclude, I need to make a prayer that the minister needs to come in and make a public pronouncement or give a ministerial statement to allay the fears because information is power and I shudder to think what my grandmother in Gokwe is thinking about now when she hears over the radio or through media that there is no more allowance or receipt for the medical aid cards.
“Information is key and there is no publicity which is bad publicity,” Nduna said.
Also presenting his motion MDC MP for Mabvuku James Maridadi said Parirenyatwa must intervene and correct the position.
“If there is anyone who is being mischievous, I think the minister must call them to order.
“I sympathise with medical doctors. I must not be construed to say that I do not sympathise with medical doctors,” Maridadi said.
“I would like to call upon the government because one of the issues that have been raised by the medical aid society, especially Premier Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas) is that government has not been remitting the money that it is deducting from government employees.
“The government is deducting money but that money is not remitted to Psmas. Mr Speaker, my prayer is that the minister as the regulatory authority must intervene and bring normalcy to this industry before people die.”