Long procedures in licensing health institutions have riled private stakeholders in the sector who believe the process is costly. President of the Private Hospitals Association Dr Billy Rigava recently said licensing was important as it protected
patients from substandard services.
However, Dr Rigava said PHA feels the process was unnecessarily long as one had to go through various boards for approval.
“We feel there is some sort of duplication of duties as you go through all these authorities, more so, it is not just an issue of paperwork, you have to pay something to each authority.
“As PHA, we feel this process is too long, duplicated in some instances and costly for anyone intending to start a health institution,” Dr Rigava said.
One needs approval from the Medicines, Dental Practitioners’ Council of Zimbabwe (MDPCZ) and the Health Professionals Authority (HPA) to get a licence to operate a health institution.
The whole process takes an average of four months to register a facility.
According to the Health Professions Act, all institutions are expected to go through all these processes even if it is registering a pre-existing hospital.
This means, if the takeover was hostile, the pre-existing hospital is forced to close to allow for re-registering.
“In such cases, patients usually suffer when ownership takeover is hostile because that would mean even closure of the institution. We feel authorities should find a way of registering the new owners without jeopardising services at the institution,” Dr Rigava said.
A case in point is that of Trauma Centre in Belgravia.
Although Dr Vivek Solanki won the ownership wrangle in February this year, the institution's doors are still closed to patients almost four months down the line.
Another institution going through the same approval challenges is Rock Foundation, owned by Dr Munyaradzi Kereke.
The institution completed a 30-bed admission wing four months ago and is well equipped.
However, patients cannot access services at this facility because the institution has not yet been registered.
MDPCZ registrar Mrs Josephine Mwakutuya, said if project managers planned their papers accordingly, the process should take at least two months.
“The Health Professions Act stipulates specific actions that must be taken in the licensing process. These are time-consuming if they are to be carried out properly,” Mrs Mwakutuya said.
She said if all requirements were met by the applicants, MDPCZ would consider and approve the application within a month and the subsequent HPA approval was given within another month.
“However, it is common to find applications that are incomplete or facilities that require correction, or health workers who are unsuitable for the proposed designation. Getting these corrections attended to causes delays in the process, although they could be avoided by better planning,” she said.
Mrs Mwakutuya dismissed accusations of duplication of duties saying there were other councils including nurses, pharmacists, environmental health and rehabilitation, which should be involved in licensing, for verification of the adequacy of the competencies of professionals involved in the institution.
However, this verification is done by HPA.
"Inspection by the MDPCZ is critical but different issues from those carried out by the HPA. In their wisdom, the authors of the governing Act saw it fit to demand these steps," she said.