Zim, India partnerships key to quality healthcare

From Paidamoyo Chipunza in India
Partnerships between local and Indian practitioners are key in increasing access to quality healthcare services by ordinary Zimbabweans, stakeholders attending India’s annual summit on medical value travel taking place in Bengaluru, have said.

In separate interviews on “take home messages” from the meetings, different stakeholders concurred that apart from high costs associated with medical care in Zimbabwe, locals also did not have confidence in the health delivery system.

This has seen a continual increase in the number of local patients travelling to India even for services that are cheaper and available locally.

Separate interviews by The Herald with several Indian health institution directors on the sidelines of summit revealed that most patients seeking treatment from their institutions were covered by medical aid societies.

They also revealed that oncology, cardiac, neurology and orthopaedic services were some of the treatments on demand.

On the other hand, local health practitioners have been criticised for discouraging the Indians to offer their services in Zimbabwe, in fear of competition.

“Government as custodians of its citizens’ health and wellbeing, must put policies that encourage Indians to come and offer their services locally through partnerships with local practitioners.

“This reduces ancillary costs incurred by patients who travel to India thereby increasing the number of patients who can access the services.

“On the local practitioner’s side, this arrangement promotes skill enhancement to handle conditions resulting in patients regaining confidence in local health delivery system through increased positive outcomes,” said a local medical facilitator, Mr Ian Matongo.

He said for conditions that cannot be managed locally such as organ transplants or cases where service is unrealistically expensive locally, patients could opt for medical care outside the country.

Zimbabwe National Army director of Health Services Colonel Dr Godfrey Mutetse weighed in saying the India’s ongoing medical value travel summit has proved that there are some conditions, with increased positive outcomes if done by the Indians because of not only high technological advancements they use but also experience in dealing with high volumes.

“The fact that they handle high volume conditions with different complications makes them more competent to handle cases that otherwise could have poor outcomes if done home. This coupled with advanced methods they use to manage the cases contributes to increased positive outcomes in many of the cases they handle,” said Dr Mutetse.

He said it therefore becomes imperative for local medical practitioners to invite the Indian practitioners to offer their services in partnership with locals to enable skills transfer.

Contacted to comment on whether medical aid societies as major drivers of medical tourism to India and other countries ever made efforts of bringing this expertise into the country, Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe chief executive officer Mrs Shylet Sanyanga said the Indians themselves never shared with the insurers the possibility of such an arrangement.

She said the Association would welcome any initiatives that reduces costs of medical care.

“AHFoZ welcomes any initiative that would help lower costs and ease the burden of foreign travel for patients and their families. Once they have been duly authorised by the statutory body, AHFoZ would welcome the relief,” said Mrs Sanyanga.

In recent years, most medical insurers embraced the medical tourism concept arguing that local doctors were charging exorbitant costs.

This saw the insurers preferring to send their members to countries such as India, South Africa and Namibia among others.

But local gynaecologist Dr Birsmack Mateveke, who was also attending the summit, urged Government to make the public health system efficient as well as facilitating an enabling operating environment for the private sector as is the Indian scenario.

He said India made health care available and affordable for its general population in public health institutions and provided an enabling environment for the private sector.

This has seen the private sector luring patients not only from Zimbabwe but the world over thereby contributing to India’s economy, money which in turn subsidise the cost of care in the public sector.

“In India, Government, particularly the Ministry of Industry and Commerce is taking the lead in promoting the private health sector, whose contribution to its economy is projected to reach $3 billion by year end. This is what Zimbabwe must emulate,” said Dr Mateveke.

Ministry of Health and Child Care principal director for preventive services Dr Sydney Makarawo said Government supports professional development partnerships as long as they are done procedurally.

He said such partnerships were already in place with Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals offering Open Heart surgeries, while Harare Central Hospital and Chitungwiza Central Hospital offer cleft lip and palate corrective operations through visiting doctors.

Dr Makarawo also said the fact that people were shunning local health services because they were either expensive or that patients were no longer confident in the capability of the system were real challenges which needed to be addressed.

“Zimbabwe used to be one of the best medical sector in the region attracting foreign patients from neighbouring countries and this is still doable.

“The challenge to our doctors is to up their skills in line with medical advancements so that people regain confidence in their services,” said Dr Makarawo.

“Zimbabwe hospitals are prepared to have exchange programmes, run clinics, treat patients in partnership with the Indians and send all complex cases to India. What the Indians need to do is to follow procedure with a local partner.”

Zimbabwe was among more than 70 countries from all over the world attending the medical summit.

Medical practitioners, health funders, facilitators of care between patients and Indian institutions, Government officials and hospital officials were some of the delegates attending the summit.

Article Source: The Herald