ZIMBABWEANS are flocking to neighbouring countries for medical treatment and to procure drugs as costs of medical care continue to rise in the country. Locals, especially those in border towns, have resorted to travelling to South Africa and Zambia for hospitalisation, drugs, laboratory tests and blood transfusion, owing to the high costs of medical care locally.
Some locals are reportedly joining foreign medical aid schemes to avoid paying exorbitant contributions to medical aid societies in the country. Patients who require blood transfusion are going to Zambia, where they pay $50 for a pint, compared to local hospitals that charge between $140 and $200.
Patients from most parts of Matabeleland North find it way cheaper to be treated or buy medication in Zambia. “It’s expensive to be treated here in Zimbabwe. Most of the people here cross the border and go to Livingstone, Zambia for treatment, medication and procedures.
“When I fell pregnant last year, I had to go to Zambia for a scan, which costs $10. Local surgeries charge $100 for the scan,” said Ms Sharon Ncube from Victoria Falls.
Another Victoria Falls resident Mr Thulani Khumalo said: “It’s far much cheaper to be treated in Zambia than in our hospitals and surgeries. One has to pay about $200 for a pint of blood in Zimbabwe. In Zambia a pint of blood costs $50. Injections for rabies cost $20 each yet in Zambia it’s only $5 per injection.”
Mr Khumalo said consultation at private surgeries costs about $10 in Zambia while in Zimbabwe it can go up to $35. Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa said he could not immediately comment on the issue as he was waiting for a report from health officials.
Matabeleland North provincial medical director Dr Nyasha Masuka told The Chronicle that the governments of South Africa and Zambia heavily subsidised medical costs for some types of treatment, resulting in Zimbabweans going there for the services.
“Some African countries, such as South Africa and Zambia, heavily subsidise costs of treatment including blood. There is a huge difference if you compare the cost of blood between the local blood banks and that of the two countries.
“For patients in Matabeleland North province, the migration to Zambia has been worsened by the fact that the blood bank in Hwange shut down after the National Blood Services of Zimbabwe cited viability challenges,” said Dr Masuka.
He dismissed reports that patients were crossing the border carrying blood so that they could be transfused back home. “This used to happen until early last year. Now there are two options. It’s either the patient buys blood at Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) for $155 or they go to Zambia for transfusion. No one moves around carrying blood because it’s not medically safe to do so,” said Dr Masuka.
The Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health, Dr Ruth Labode, on Friday asked to be called after lunch. She would answer her phone and be heard chatting in the background.
National Blood Services of Zimbabwe (NBSZ) spokesperson Ms Esther Massundah declined to comment on the issue and referred questions to the Ministry of Health and Child Care. chronicle