Healthcare could be an engine for growth in the economy, according to Cimas chief executive Vulindlela Ndlovu. He told journalists there was the potential for specialist health institutions to be established that could attract patients from other countries.
He said there was a critical shortage of specialists in Zimbabwe in certain areas, necessitating treatment for some conditions in other countries.
Yet there were areas of specialist expertise where, if local specialists came together to establish affordable specialist health institutions, not only could Zimbabweans be treated locally but patients could be attracted from other countries.
Addressing journalists at a recent ZimSelector Journalists Insurance Mentorship Programme workshop, he gave an eye hospital as an example of a specialist institution that local eye specialists could establish.
At present Zimbabweans and people from all over Africa were being referred to an eye hospital in South Africa for treatment. If eye specialists in Zimbabwe were to establish an eye hospital, they could attract patients from other countries who currently had to go to South Africa, he said.
Mr Ndlovu said medical aid societies were playing a critical role in the health sector both in funding medical treatment and in providing health and medical services themselves.
He denied there was any conflict of interest in medical aid societies establishing health service facilities. Doing so worked well in other countries. Medical aid societies established these facilities because they wanted to ensure as many people as possible had access to health facilities.
Challenges medical aid societies faced included the lack of a common economic tariff agreed to by both funders and service providers, delays in contribution payments, fraud and the costly disintegrated medical practice units, which resulted in high costs, as each service provider charged separately for the services provided for a medical procedure.
An operation at a private clinic could results in six different invoices, after the hospital, surgeon, anaesthetist, laboratory pathology and others, such as a physiotherapist, had submitted their bills.
In India, he said, included in a hospital package were the services of a whole suite of specialists.
He cited the example of a child with a chronic mental disorder treated in India. At the hospital, the child was seen by a neuro-paediatrician, child development specialist, psychiatrist, ophthalmologist, ear nose and throat specialist, speech therapist, occupational therapist and physiotherapist, all for the same price as it would have cost just for the services of a single neuro-surgeon in Zimbabwe.
He said Cimas was placing a major emphasis on promoting wellness among its members. Instances of non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and cancer were all on the rise.
Wellness programmes, which included exercise, the correct diet and lifestyle changes such as giving up smoking and reducing one’s alcohol intake, reduced the risk of these diseases. Hence the importance Cimas was according its wellness programme to improve the quality of life of its members and help extend their lifespan.