Foreign Medical Bills Chew US$4mil Annually

Foreign Medical Bills Chew US$4mil Annually

Zimbabwe is losing US$4 million annually through medical bills to cater for people referred outside the country for treatment, Finance, and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube has said.

Foreign Medical Bills Chew US$4mil Annually

Speaking during a Mid-term budget review breakfast meeting in Bulawayo last week, the Minister said because of the multicurrency system the country has been using since February 2009, local doctors were acting as agents for foreign health facilities.

He said $4 billion has been lost in the last decade. “But do you know what has been happening, the cost of this US dollar drug is greening like mbanje so the doctors (local) were spending a lot of time acting as agents for hospital facilities in places like India and they earned a fee for that,” said Prof Ncube.

“So, rather than treating here, they say go to India and of course you will get good treatment but they (local doctors) earned a fee for that. The whole referral industry was earning US dollars by referring patients to places like India and others.

So using the US dollar also distorted the incentive system within the health sector and that’s what happened.”

The Government in June this year banned the multicurrency regime through Statutory Instrument 142 of 2019 and brought back the Zimbabwe dollar as the sole legal tender.

This was after it was realized that there were financial market distortions that cropped up as a result of the abuse of the US dollar.

“We were losing $400 million a year through these referrals. So the sector sends a patient for treatment to India on referral but that doctor in India if he were to come to Zimbabwe wanting to treat a patient here, he is not allowed by the same medical council.

“So we have regulatory bottlenecks in the sector but we have got this perverse incentive through the hard-earned US dollar and that forces a patient to be sent out for treatment,” he said.

Against this background, Prof Ncube said, it was imperative for the country to set up medical tourism and attract Zimbabweans studying medicine abroad to come and practice back home upon completion of their studies.

“I believe we can launch a successful medical tourism industry in this country in the next few years provided we can make it easy for the children training out there to come and practice here in Zimbabwe. As Government we are going to deal with that,” he said.

Prof Ncube said Government was committed to investing in the health sector infrastructure across the country to improve the quality of service delivery.

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