Govt bars doctors from hiking tariffs

Government has ordered doctors to follow stipulated procedures when hiking medical tariffs, describing any other practice outside the expected processes as unfair. This followed a unilateral increase of medical fees by physicians on Tuesday, which saw new rates of consulting the specialists pegged between $900 and $3 750.

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Health and Child Care said by unilaterally increasing the costs, the doctors were violating provisions of the medical services regulations.

“The ministry is greatly concerned with the unilateral increase of tariffs by the Physicians’ Association of Zimbabwe following the announcement of the SI 142 of 2019,” said the ministry.

“This amounts to unfair practice by providers to members in terms of the Medical Services (Medical Aid Societies) (Amendment) ReguIations, 2004.”

The ministry said, according to the regulations, service providers, physicians included, should agree on a common tariff with health funders, which are medical aid societies.

It said if the two parties fail to agree on a common tariff, Government will gazette a tariff that both parties must abide by.

“According to these regulations, it is deemed unfair practice when a health care provider demands from any person any payment by way of consultation fee or deposit or other similar payment howsoever described in excess of:-

“The amount agreed between the association recognised by the minister as representing the interest of medical aid societies, AHFoZ in this case, and the body recognised as representing interests of provides, ZIMA or its affiliate in this case or:

“The amount specified by the minister in the gazette, in the absence of the agreement between the funders and the providers association,” further reads the statement.

The ministry said providers who intended to increase tariffs should be guided by the regulations. According to a circular by the physicians, patients approaching any of the specialists for the first time at their rooms will now be charged $1 800.

The doctors will also require a further $1 050 from the same patient on his next visit for review.

If it is the specialist visiting the patient in a hospital facility, the patient will be required to pay $1 800 for each visit the doctor pays for the first four days and $1 200 from day five going forward.

Patients will only pay $900 per day if they spend at least two weeks in admission.

However, patients with critical conditions such as those in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and High Dependency Unit (HDU) will be required to pay $3 750 for the doctor to attend to them for the first time.

From day two to day four, the same patient will be required to pay an additional $2 250 each day and $1 500 each day from day five going forward.

“In light of the recent announcement of SI 142 introducing the Zimbabwean dollar as the sole legal tender, the NaPAZ executive met today (26 June) and agreed on the following,

“To transition from the multi-currency based tariffs to Zimbabwe-dollar based tariffs,” reads part of the circular from the specialists’ association.

The Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZIMA), to which the physicians are an affiliate, said its meeting on tariffs was slated for today.

Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe chief executive officer Mrs Shylet Sanyanga said while some physicians seem to have implemented these new fees, some were still charging the old rates.

“There has not been any official communication to AHFoZ from the physicians. It is not clear how the fees have been derived considering that a doctors’ consultation does not require any import component,” said Mrs Sanyanga.

She said these fees were not affordable even for people on medical aid. She, however, said there were some physicians who were still accepting medical aid patients at reasonable rates.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Mr Itai Rusike described the new tariffs as “shocking, unacceptably high and beyond the reach of many.”

He said if allowed to charge these fees, practically Zimbabweans would have been denied their right to health, which is enshrined in the national Constitution.

“With less than 10 percent of the country’s population on medical insurance, unemployment rate of over 85 percent and a majority of those that are employed earning less than $1 000, this means very few people will afford these consultation fees by physicians. Ultimately, people will die at home,” said Mr Rusike.

Before abolishment of the multi-currency system by Government on Tuesday, the doctors were charging US$80 and US$50 for initial and review consultations.