Doctors, medical societies tiff deepens

PRIVATE doctors have resolved to reject all medical aid cards, starting July 1, as the payment stand-off between the doctors, medical aid societies and government intensifies.

The doctors through their representative association, Zimbabwe Medical Association (Zima), yesterday said tax laws, which require doctors to pay tax for money not yet received, had triggered the decision.

The resolution to reject medical insurance cards also follows a threat the association issued last month, in a letter to Health minister David Parirenyatwa. The ministry had further given medical insurance June 30 as the deadline to pay what they owe doctors.

As the cash crisis persists doctors, who claim they are owed about $220 million, said they would be installing point of sale (POS) machines in their practices. 

“While this matter is being addressed and resolved, Zima is committed to ensure that patients who are unable to pay the cash sums involved will not suffer.

“We have advised our practitioners to install point of sale (POS) payment instruments,” Zima president Agnes Mahomva told journalists at a press conference yesterday.

“If the situation is not urgently managed, most medical doctors will be forced to permanently shut down their practices and hence disadvantage their patients.”

A letter the association had written to the minister to resolve the conflict between the doctors and medical insurers as well as a taxing conflict with Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) last month had not yet been responded to. 

“Currently, Zimbabwe tax laws dictate that an invoice lodged with a health insurance firm by a medical doctor is considered as income to the doctor that the doctor must pay taxes on.

“Medical doctors have been paying and continue to pay an accumulate tax on funds that they have not received from health insurance firms,” Mahomva said.

“Let me say, we are not going to turn away any patients, those without cash will be assisted and referred to public hospitals like Parirenyatwa . Already, some institutions including public and private hospitals were selectively accepting medical aid cards, with some going further to charge shortfalls for procedures not covered by health insurance. "

The move, however, will also put a strain on public hospitals that are already incapacitated to fully provide basic and specialist services. —Bridget Mananavire

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