Medical Aid Bill on cards
THE Government will next month begin consultations for the Medical Aid Societies Bill that is expected to address multiple challenges in the health insurance sector, Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa has said.
In a speech read on his behalf by the Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Aldrin Musiiwa at the official opening of the Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ) annual conference in Victoria Falls yesterday, Dr Parirenyatwa said the bill, once passed into law is also expected to see the establishment of a medical aid regulatory board that would oversee the operations of medical aid societies in the country. “Consultations will begin in the next two or three weeks as we move to ensure all stakeholders can contribute and shape the Bill for everyone’s appreciation,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
He said as Government sets up the regulatory body for medical aid societies, AHFoZ will also be consulted as a key stakeholder.
He said the objective of the Bill is to strengthen governance and efficiency in the health insurance sector, which is currently characterised by corruption and abuse of members’ contributions.
“It is not to radically disrupt existing systems that are functioning well, but to strengthen and help create an enabling environment for the benefit of the people that we are there to serve.”
Dr Parirenyatwa said Government was also working on finding funding strategies to capacitate the National Health Insurance Scheme, which is expected to cater for the majority of Zimbabweans not on medical aid.
“We need to find a way of establishing a national health service that will not benefit only those in formal employment but those in the informal sector and those who are unemployed,” he said.
“The obvious obstacle is funding. What source of funding can be tapped in to sustain a National Health Scheme that gives everyone access to medical services? It is an issue Government is actively considering.”
He also said public private partnerships were the only survival strategy for most public hospitals citing an example of Chitungwiza Central Hospital.
“While most public hospitals are unable to meet some very basic health delivery needs, Chitungwiza Hospital has been able to despite operating in the same difficult environment as everyone else,” Dr Parirenyatwa said.
“It offers an excellent service and open new units with its most recent project being the kidney transplant operations, which have not been carried out in Zimbabwe for many years but are due to commence later this year.”
Dr Parirenyatwa also urged medical aid societies to continue complementing the public sector and other healthcare services by providing services that are not only open to their members but to anyone in need of them.
He, however, bemoaned protracted misunderstandings between health service providers and health insurers saying it was not fair to sacrifice patients’ welfare over disputes.
“The impression given from various media reports over the last months is that health funders and service providers, particularly doctors are constantly at each other’s throats rather than being partners in the care of their patients and members,” Dr Parirenyatwa said.
“That cannot be good for either and is certainly not good for the patient whose welfare should always be uppermost in our minds.”
Speaking at the same occasion, AHFoZ chief executive Mrs Shylet Sanyanga welcomed the idea of setting up a regulatory board saying her association would also be glad to input into establishment of the board.
“We also believe the regulatory framework needs to be reviewed and updated to include regulation of other players who have also come onto the market,” said Mrs Sanyanga.
In relation to the disputes between health insurers and service providers, Mrs Sanyanga said both parties have a moral obligation to ensure that the long standing impasse is resolved as soon as possible.
“The lack of progress has perpetuated the suffering of patients, as they continue to face shortfalls and demands for cash from some service providers. Energies spent issuing and reacting to ultimatums, threats and fights should be redirected to constructive dialogue,” she said.
Dr David Parirenyatwa