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Inept state: Public pay the price of incompetence

Rufaro Mufundirwa

It is unfortunate that the ordinary citizens bear the brunt of every bungling made in this country. The rampant corruption in this country is having a bearing on the poor citizens.

Let us look at Zesa Holdings for instance. After wasting public funds in profligacy, they want to resort to hiking electricity tariffs. This hike will increase the price of goods and services. The producers will simply factor that increase on their goods and the retailers will do likewise. The burden will be passed on until it reaches the final point in the supply chain, who is the ordinary citizen. Unfortunately he has nowhere to transfer the burden to.

As if that is not enough, the ordinary citizens received another bombshell from the Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZMA) this week. The sad news is that as from July 1 2016, patients will be required to pay doctors cash upfront. Their argument is that they are paying tax to Zimra for claims they would not have been paid by the medical societies.

Although government attempted to allay fears, uncertainties still exist, for people think it is one of the usual talk shows sometimes associated with politicians. They could be justified to think as such, for there are many other government pronouncements that were never followed up with action. Yes government might say it is illegal and it ends there. Doctors will still continue to demand cash upfront from the poor patients and the two doctors, Adrin Musiiwa and David Parirenyatwa might never come to know about it.

A case in point can be seen at the Ambassador House. The ministry of primary and secondary education declared over and over again that no pupil will be sent home for not paying school fees. Contrary to that proclamation, the School Development Committees/Associations (SDC/A) and the heads of schools are just sending pupils home without any fear. They know their ministry has no teeth and would not stop to exploit that knack for talk shows.

The ordinary Zimbabwean will die desperately while the top cream enjoy world's best attention

The ordinary Zimbabwean will die desperately while the top cream enjoy world’s best attention

Hopefully, this is not the case with the ministry of health and child welfare this time around because here is a matter of life and death. The government must be firm but fair to all parties involved in this issue. The actors in this life threatening development involve doctors, medical aid societies, patients, Zimra and government itself. All of these players should not feel shortchanged and a compromise must be reached for the sake of the health system of this country. The economy is not good for all, thus, a balance must be struck to make sure every player survives.

Patients are religiously paying their dues. It becomes very iniquitous to demand cash upfront from them. It is better to increase the premiums ensure availability of service than to double dip from their shallow pockets. There have been unconfirmed reports that government is not remitting civil servants’ contributions to Public Service Medical Aid Society (PSMAS). If the allegations happen to be true, government must then play its part to solve this issue. Directing doctors to accept medical aids is not enough. Government workers’ contributions must be remitted to their respective medical aid societies.

We know the tax man needs his dues but demanding them from claims that have not been paid is a bit unjust. It is quite excessive for doctors to borrow money to pay Zimra. Their case is justified and Zimra must exercise a bit of patience on these doctors. They offer essential services to the nation which must not be tempered with.

The greatest rot is in the medical aid societies themselves. Government has winked at this rot for too a long time. For instance, not much was done after it was exposed that the executives and board members at PSMAS were awarding themselves mega salaries. The problems in PSMAS have their genesis in these jumbo salaries. On which planet can a firm survive while dishing out such salaries?

The medical aid societies must adjust themselves in line with the prevailing macro-economic environment. They must cut their expenditures and channel the bulk of their income towards the health needs of the contributors. It does not help to have a well paid staff and beautiful buildings when the owners of the money are not getting benefits. These medical aid societies must not be profit making entities.

Medical aid societies such as PSMAS are now overwhelmed by subscribing members. It is high time that government allows its workers to choose alternative medical aid societies of their choices. That sector must be opened to allow new players which can offer better services. It does not help anyone to contribute for years without visiting a doctor and the one time you decide to do so, cash upfront is demanded from you.

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