Outcry over medical revenue loss

MEDICAL doctors are concerned about potential revenue they and the country are losing when patients travel to seek treatment abroad and have implored the Government to develop infrastructure to retain patients.

Speaking at the Zimbabwe Medical Association congress which ended here at the weekend, doctors said there was a need to start investing in medical infrastructure so as to attract medical or health tourism.

Health tourism is described as “the visit by individuals to a foreign country not for leisure but seeking treatment”.

The doctors say they are concerned with the increase in the number of Zimbabweans seeking medical treatment outside the country and have called for public-private partnerships in capacity and infrastructure building to enable the country to benefit by retaining patients and revenue.

“Patients are travelling outside the country because we have no capacity compared to countries in Asia where they have centres of excellence with everything under one roof,” said Dr Lilian Dahwa, a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe.

She said with infrastructure, Zimbabwe can replace India, South Africa and Singapore as leading health tourism destinations and get revenue.

“We have a large number of patients travelling outside the country and we aren’t benefiting as the medical sector and country as a whole.

“We need a transfer of knowledge where we can make Zimbabwe a medical tourism destination and bring home revenue by also bringing home practitioners practising in preferred countries,” said Dr Dahwa.

She said it would also be cheaper for health funders and patients to be treated locally as there will be less challenges associated with follow up visits.

Dr Dahwa implored medical practitioners to move away from solo practice into group practice which can help develop the sector.

“While Asia has the best facilities, ours remain like tuck shops because we still want to remain solo practitioners. We need good facilities and we must send our young doctors to those centres to learn and come back to impart knowledge and bring confidence so patients don’t seek treatment outside the country.”

She said this can also be achieved by engaging countries with ‘best’ facilities to establish centres for chronic diseases such as cancer, kidney and heart disease in Zimbabwe.

A kidney specialist Dr Onismas Madzudzo

said: “People travel to India and South Africa because we have no facilities. South Africa has everything but it’s expensive while India is too far. The challenge we have is that patients will seek to fly back there for further monitoring and that comes with hidden costs which can be avoided if we had our facilities,” said Dr Madzudzo.

According to the doctors, a surgical process that costs $30 000 in the United States costs $10 000 in India and $80 000 in South Africa. — Chronicle

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