|When health care is beyond reach|
|Thursday, 10 May 2012 00:00|
Roselyne Sachiti Deputy Features Editor
a wheelbarrow as her husband Tendai pushes it towards them.
The money they get is not enough to meet Mary’s medical bills and neither is it adequate to pay for the myomectomy (operation to have fibroids removed).
She has been on the waiting list for as long as she can remember at a public hospital and seeking the services of a private doctor is expensive.
They have pinned their hopes on the faith healers and say her condition stabilises each time she goes there.
They say they once considered taking health insurance but realised that they could not afford it. The little money they get goes to food, rent, clothes and school fees.
Despite her health hanging by a thread and in intensive care, Mary still insists that she wants the operation but has no money and there is nothing she can do about it.
Abraham Gutu (37), a self-employed carpenter from Glen View, said he tried to apply for medical aid once, but the costs would chew into his monthly earnings.
“I went to one medical aid society and they told me they needed a total of US$261 per month for subscriptions. I could not afford the money and I fork out cash each time any of my children is sick. Medical aid societies should take into consideration that most Zimbabweans are unemployed and it is expensive to access packages as an individual. Those who join under their companies are better,” he said.
He said because of deterrent subscription fees, he has also been finding it affordable to seek medical help from traditional healers who have modernised their surgeries.
“Visiting Government hospitals, which are cheaper, is sometimes a hassle as the service leaves a lot to be desired. The private hospitals are no-go areas for some of us who pay cash,” he added.
The Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey 2010-11, which was published a fortnight ago, confirms that 93 percent of Zimbabwean women and 91 percent of men do not have health insurance.
It said the few women who have health insurance are covered by social security or other employer plans.
As expected, women who live in urban areas and those in the highest wealth quintile are most likely to have health insurance.
This is despite the arguable fact that women need health insurance more than men especially when it comes to maternal visits, blood pressure monitoring, etc.
“Again higher education greatly increases the chance of a man to have health insurance coverage. Forty-two percent of men with more than a secondary education have health insurance, compared with 3 percent of men with no education, 1 percent with only a primary education, and 8 percent with only a secondary education,” added the report.
Of the women staying in urban areas, 1,3 percent have social security, 9,8 percent employer-based insurance, 0,9 percent mutual organisation community based insurance, 1,8 privately purchased commercial insurance while 88,5 percent are not covered by any form of insurance. Women living in rural areas are less insured with 0,7 covered by social security, 1,7 by other employer- based insurance, 0,2 percent by mutual health organisation, 0,4 percent privately purchased and 97 percent with no coverage.
Men living in urban areas are more insured (1,3 percent) covered by social security, 10,1 percent by other employer based insurance, 1,5 percent by mutual health organisation or community based insurance, 4,0 are covered by a privately purchased insurance while 83,3 percent are not covered by any medical aid.
With such shocking statistics, The Herald made several inquiries with some medical aid societies to find out what really deters people from seeking health insurance.
This facility will only be accessed three months after a person joins and covers the general practitioner and prescribed drugs. If one is new to the scheme and wants to access specialists, they have to wait for six months. The waiting period for optical care is one year, maternity is nine months and chronic illnesses like cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes among others is two years.
The basic care facility is only open when applying as a company and costs less with monthly individual subscriptions of US$9 per month.
This indeed is a thorn in the flesh and could be the reason why many people who are unemployed and self- employed do not have health insurance.
One has to wait for six months before visiting a specialist and nine months for maternity visits.
“But you can only access Government, mission and council hospitals if you have this one.