Wednesday, 6 April 2022


Employees at Premier Services Medical Investment (Pvt) Ltd, a division of Premier Services Holding Company, this week downed tools bringing healthcare services at most of its facilities to a halt in protest over a host of issues they claim have gone unanswered by management and the board of directors for some time.

Chief among their grievances were the delays in payment of salaries and benefits such as school fees, fuel allowances, policies as well as the non-payment of operating licence renewal fees for the doctors and non-payment of locums, which have affected revenue generation and staff leave.

They said this effectively meant that all medical practitioners at PSMI were currently operating illegally, a situation they said could have negative ramifications on their careers.

The employees also claimed that directors at Premier Service Holding Company (PSHC) were wasting money meant for health service delivery at PSMI facility in frivolous activities that had no benefit to the patients or the staff.

PSMI is the largest private health care services provider in the country running hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and labs across the country.

The company serves at least 90 percent of Zimbabwe’s civil servants, who are members of the Premier Services Medical Aid Society (PSMAS) and other private clients through its facilities.

The Herald is in possession of correspondence from the employees through their lawyer, to the PSMI managing director Tafadzwa Gutu and PSMI chairman of Wellington Tutisa and the chairman of PSMAS Jeremiah Bvirindi on different occasions outlining their grievances.

In a letter written to the PSMI managing director Mr Gutu on March 23, the employees questioned if the company was still a going concern in light of its apparent failure to meet its obligations to various service providers as well as failure to buy the necessary stocks for operations to continue uninterrupted.

They said most of their concerns about staff welfare had not been resolved despite having been raised some time ago.

“In light of the above genuine issues causing uncertainty among employees, an urgent meeting is hereby requested with you and worker leaders from various levels where the author of this letter is also invited for frank discussions on way forward for there is a feeling that if issues are not resolved, PSMI will be doing a disservice to its employees, Government and Zimbabweans at large given its strategic position in the provision of health services to people and Government officials,” read part of the letter.

Following the correspondence, the PSMI board on March 30 sent out a circular that the holding company would now work with the company’s management to come up with a recovery plan.

However, the employees said the handholding of PSMI by the holding company served no purpose but to duplicate directors’ roles and allow further abuse of funds at the expense of the workers.

They claimed PSHC was one of the white elephants draining resource from PSMI.

On Friday last week, PSMI adopted a co-payment system where every member of PSMAS is required to pay US$5 or ZWL$1 050 before receiving treatment or services.

Workers believe the co-payment is a clutch at making ends meet by the company.

“This is very unfair to members particularly Government employees who had always been paying their monthly contributions without anything in return. Workers are of the view that the money being charged as co-payments is meant for nothing other than boosting management pockets,” the workers alleged in a letter addressed to the board chair Mr Bvirindi by the medical professional and Allied Workers Union of Zimbabwe on Monday.


In response to emailed questions from The Herald,  PSHC public relations, communications and brand manager Mr Arthur Choga said the recent introduction of a co-payment had been necessitated by the need to cover costs of providing the services, which had escalated over time resulting in a negative working capital gap in PSMI.

“Subscriptions on the medical aid side continue to track the official rate while costs are being incurred based on parallel market rates, making it difficult for PSMI to meet obligations as they fall due. Given these pressures and the target market’s inability to afford market related subscriptions, PSMI therefore introduced co-payments to assist in meeting operating expenses,” he said. 

He admitted that PSMI had fallen behind with its salary and benefits obligations dating back to between six and nine months but efforts to liquidate the arrears were underway.

“Our employees remain one of our greatest assets. We appreciate their resilience and commitment in the face of adversity. The pandemic itself came with a lot of trauma to healthcare employees, unfortunately, with the same pandemic came depressed economic performance which did not spare PSMI given its peculiar challenges, which include the sub optimal subscription at PSMAS that resulted in a downstream negative working capital gap at PSMI, which continued to accommodate PSMAS members regardless.

“PSMI prioritised the preservation of employment resultantly current compensation levels are now below expectations. We appreciate that the current compensation levels are not as competitive as they used to be and once performance has improved in light of our various interventions, we are going to address this issue,” said Mr Choga.

He said the decision by the PSMI board to ask the holding company to assist in the revival of the company had been necessitated by the availability of expertise within the holding company’s management team who have previously successfully grown and managed PSMI.

“Since this expertise was already within the Group and given the financial situation of PSMI, this was the most prudent and cost effective strategy to quickly turnaround the fortunes of PSMI,” he added.

He said the move was not a duplication of roles as PSMI had its own management which oversaw the day to day operations while the holding company’s mandate was to advise entities in keeping with what is required in corporate governance.

There have been reports that the organisation’s investments into business ventures such as microfinance and gold prospecting through Premier Services microfinance and Clay Dust, was an abuse of funds and diverting attention from the core business.

Mr Choga said the two entities had been formed after board resolutions on 17th of December 2019, and 1st of June 2018 to preserve value of the fund.

“No money was taken from business operations to make these investments. It is best practice for organisations globally to diversify by penetrating unrelated markets in order to grow their revenue streams, reduce concentration and ensure sustainability of their operations.

‘‘These unrelated investments are done with the full concurrence, ratification and approval of the shareholders through the AGM, respective boards and financiers. These investments therefore have no negative effect on the operations of current investment of healthcare service provision and insurance,” he said. Herald


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