BULAWAYO, Thursday, September 19, 1991 — Doctors in Matabeleland have complained to the Ministry of Health about the way people are required to prove that they are unemployed before receiving free treatment in Government hospitals.
The doctors told the minister, Dr Timothy Stamps, at a refresher course for medical practitioners at Mpilo Central Hospital yesterday, that hundreds of patients in need of urgent attention were turned away because they could not prove that they were unemployed. They described the system as inhuman and insensitive.
Under the existing system, no unemployed person can get free treatment without a supporting letter from the Ministry of Labour, Manpower Planning and Social Welfare. The doctors also said that patients should not be made to pay for more expensive drugs where less expensive drugs were not available because it was not the patient’s fault. Some doctors also felt that people should not be made to pay if doctors performed tests poorly and made a wrong diagnosis because it was not the patient’s fault. They argued that it was morally unacceptable to make people pay for shoddy work.
It was the general feeling among the doctors that the Ministry of Health should formulate a better system of making people pay for hospital services. They said under the present system some people paid more than was necessary.
In response, Dr Stamps said his ministry would not change its policy on hospital fees as it had to recoup the money it spent on providing the services. He said the ministry had a large deficit.
He said the previous system of free medical treatment had led to a fall in the standard of health facilities.