PRIVATE hospitals admitting Covid-19 patients in Zimbabwe are making a killing, charging an average of US$3 500 for admission, at a time bed capacity is low at government facilities.
This week, the country reported a record 38 deaths in 24 hours, the highest one-day toll since the first outbreak in March last year.
According to the Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights, Harare’s public hospitals have a capacity of about 30 intensive care unit (ICU) beds.
The few private hospitals, including Arundel, St Anne’s, Health Point and Mater Dei in Bulawayo, are charging between US$2 000 and US$5 000, depending on the support needed.
As desperation grows for ICU care, which in most cases requires ventilator support, the few Zimbabweans who can afford the astronomical fees have been posting on social media pages hunting for beds, saying they were prepared to pay any price.
Doctors are charging US$1 000, before other charges are factored in.
Mater Dei Hospital, which was the first facility to exclusively offer Covid-19 hospitalisation to private patients last year, dropped a bombshell with its US$5 000 deposit for ICU hospitalisation in a leaked memorandum.
The hospital, founded in the 1950s by Franciscan Catholic nuns, demanded a US$3 000 deposit for general ward hospitalisation, according to a memorandum dated 1 July.
“Kindly be advised that all Covid-19 patients are required to pay USD deposits, US$60 for casualty, US$3 000 for general ward and US$5 000 for ICU hospitalisation,” the memorandum, signed by the hospital’s credit analyst Obidience Ncube, read.
Harare private hospitals have followed suit, charging fees which are far beyond the reach of most Zimbabweans, who earn less than US$100 per month.
Health Point in Harare demands a US$2 500 deposit for five-day hospitalisation in the general ward. It also requires an extra US$1 000 for a physician. The hospital, located in Mount Pleasant suburb, requires a deposit of US$5 000 for five-day ICU admission and an extra US$1 000 for an anaesthetist.
Other hospitals and doctors are now offering house calls for asymptomatic and moderately symptomatic patients as well as patients with underlying conditions who need close monitoring.