By Mary Taruvinga, Senior Reporter
CIVIL servants have been thrown into further crisis after a decision by Premier Services Medical Society’s (PSMAS) to shut down over 50 of the hospitals built to mainly serve them.
The hospitals, according to details shared with NewZimbabwe.com, have been shut down as a result of PSMAS subsidiary Premier Service Medical Investments’ (PSMI) never ending financial crisis.
Westend and Shashi are some of those that are no longer functional, with the facilities’ renal and dental units closed down.
Workers from the hospitals, which number 57, this publication is informed, downed tools in the past week leaving civil servants stranded as most of them cannot afford private hospitals.
The situation has been worsened by the fact that most private hospitals across the country do not accept the medical aid.
PSMI Senior Manager Business Performance, Obey Nhakura denied that 57 hospitals had shutdown, however confirming that only a quarter of the organisation’s facilities were functional.
Nhakura said PSM has 148 facilities across the country.
“They are not 57 hospitals. It is a mixture of various units that offer various healthcare services,” said Nhakura.
“PSMI is currently facing operational challenges mainly attributable to cash-flow constraints.
“This has resulted in accumulation of some critical staff obligations, culminating in the current declaration of incapacitation by employees.
“Consequently, about 25 percent of our units are operating and attending to patients.
“Operations are expected to return to normalcy as soon as possible.”
PSMAS also issued a statement to that effect.
“PSMAS wishes to advise its valued members that PSMI is currently experiencing challenges that may result in service interruption,” said PSMAS on Thursday.
PSMAS has, as a stop gap measure, listed 43 private medical facilities in Harare where their clients can access services.
An insider told NewZimbabwe.com that the entity was hanging by a thread.
“They have put in place a stop gap measure to allow members access but PSMI has serious challenges. It’s not looking nice,” said the source.
Late last year, PSMAS allayed closure fears, notifying the public authorities were running around to solve the situation.
PSMAS confirmed then that things were not rosy but assured clients that it will remain open while fixing its problems.
It then said the rumours were not only false but bent on tarnishing the organisation’s image and reputation.
The entity said the challenges at PSMI do not have a direct impact on its operational mandate, which is to fund healthcare needs for members.
Government covers 80% of PSMAS subscriptions for each of its employees under the medical scheme.
Meanwhile, government is imposing subscriptions of about US$2 dollars when other medical aid funds are between U$35 to US$100.
Commenting on the issue, a local think tank, Free Enterprise leader, Brian Sedze said the rates were not sustainable.
“We can’t expect civil servants to access the same medical care as others at those subscriptions or their medical aid society to be able to fund such specialist service at those rates.
“The solution is market rates. Now that’s a hard hit area because to do that means a wholesale astronomical increase in civil servants salaries which government either can’t afford or doesn’t want to offer.
“As they continue to dig a big financial hole with those sub-optimal subscriptions I see going concern challenges which may force government take over which will be an absolute disaster if we measure government management of its public hospitals,” he said.
PSMI was the biggest success story in Zimbabwe’s healthcare funding.
However, it has been reduced to a reject by health institutions due to late payments.
On rare occasions when funds are received at stipulated times, clients are told to pay shortfalls in foreign currency.
The company is in huge debt.
Recently, government injected ZW$4 billion for smooth operation of the medical aid provider but this according to critics is a takeover trick.