03 May 2004
The soaring medical fees in Zimbabwe have largely affected low-income groups, especially in rural areas, in a big way. Medical fees have inflated 600 per cent. Consultation fees, for example, have increased from US$13.80 to US$29.70; deposits fees at private hospitals, which offer better services than the public hospitals, now range from US$43.50 to US$ 317.
Fortunately, Zimbabweans can now turn to the Community Medical Outreach Service Trust (CMOST), a group of volunteer doctors and nurses who provide medical services for free to the unemployed and people from poor background, even servicing those who live in the far-flung areas.
The volunteer group has 80 medical doctors, drawn mostly from the capital, Harare, who are assisted by a group of nurses. The doctors include ear, nose and throat specialists, gynaecologists, urologists and paediatricians.
Since it started in October last year, CMOST has conducted general consultations for more than a thousand ill people not only in Harare but also in rural areas such as Masvingo, Mashonaland Central and Matabeleland province.
"Specialist doctors tend to be concentrated in the big urban centres. They shun rural areas because they are afraid that their surgeries might collapse, since the general rural population lacks the capacity to pay for medical services. In addition, rural hospitals are mostly understaffed and are inaccessible to many," Muguti added.
"We therefore decided to offer these marginalized people, who could otherwise die due to conditions that require simple attention, free and voluntary medical help. Busy as we are, we have resolved to spare one day every month to do an outreach programme in which we visit [rural] areas and attend to the sick," Muguti explained.
From: Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)