ABOUT 93% of Zimbabweans have no access to health insurance due to high poverty levels in the country, while only 7% can afford private health services.
This came out during a stakeholder engagement meeting on revitalising primary health care in the country to promote universal health coverage which was hosted by the Community Working Group on Health (CWGH).
The country largely depends on external funding for its health financing.
“Currently, only about 7% of Zimbabweans have access to medical insurance and this number is insufficient to ensure decent public healthcare. No country can prosper without a healthy citizenry. In line with regional and global best practices, national health insurance can be publicly funded through a combination of sin taxes as well as sugar taxes to ensure primary healthcare to every Zimbabwean,” CWGH said
The 2022 national budget revealed that 25% of the country’s major hospitals were providing selected major surgeries while provincial hospitals failed to offer selected specialist services.
“The country also faces a critical shortage of healthcare staff with the number, quality and capability of healthcare workers as a ratio of the population being critically low. Zimbabwe also suffers from inadequate public health infrastructure and ill-equipped hospitals, CWGH said.
Meanwhile, government has revealed that the country only has five radiotherapy machines which are working, which has resulted in cancer patients having to wait for months to access services. Global Cancer Observatory data states that in 2020, Zimbabwe reported 16 083 new cases of cancer and 10 676 deaths due to the disease. The most frequently reported cancers in the country included cervical, breast and prostate.
Responding to questions from legislators in the National Assembly, Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga said: “We have five cancer machines which are working, and they are not enough. We have done our shopping list as we discussed and agreed with the Ministry of Finance in order to address equipment shortages at all our hospitals.”
“We have to standardize all our equipment so that even if we transfer a professional from Plumtree to Mutare, he will not have a problem, they will have the same type of equipment and this way, we can guarantee our citizens that wherever they will go, they will be attended to.”
He said the issue needed to be urgently addressed as young children were also being affected by cancer and had to be sent out of the country for treatment.
“Right now, the equipment which we are procuring includes that for surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, humeral therapy and external beam radiotherapy machines.”
Meanwhile, Chiwenga has ordered all Premier Service Medical Investments (PSMI) institutions to reopen following reports that they were closed due to financial challenges at PSMAS.
“I have directed that all PSMI institutions which had closed down must open. We are putting medicines into those institutions so that our people get attended to while investigations are on-going,” Chiwenga said.