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Doctors Charge “Extortionate” Fees For COVID-19 Treatment

6 August 2021

Some doctors in collusion with private hospitals in Harare are reportedly reaping off COVID-19 patients by charging extortionate fees for treatment.

This comes as admission and treatment for COVID-19 overwhelm public hospitals which are full to capacity, pushing desperate patients to seek treatment at private medical facilities.

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Patients are accusing these facilities of profiteering from the pandemic while owners defended their pricing regime, saying importing medication and equipment was expensive.

In a post that went viral on Thursday, a couple visited an upmarket private health facility (name supplied) for treatment after the husband developed COVID-19 symptoms. The family wrote:

At first, the nurse insisted on us making a decision on which protocol we will be going for before even seeing the doctor.

We asked to see the doctor first and finally, we got the consult. After testing positive for antigen, he was told that there were two treatments being offered, protocol two and protocol three.

The family was put on protocol two which involved being put on a nebuliser and jet fuel/drip at a cost of US$475 and US$250 shortfall if on medical aid. Also under protocol two, one will need to buy a treatment kit which costs $150.

Thereafter, the patient will need to come in every day for five days to be put on the nebuliser and drip. This they said cost $475 per day, and medical aid does not cover it.

The couple alleged that the centre refused to give them a prescription for the treatment kit so that they could buy it elsewhere and they claimed they could not disclose what was in the kit. The wife added:

I pleaded with the doctor if she could just write a prescription as hubby has mild symptoms, but apparently, they are not allowed to disclose what is in the prescription kit.

What makes it worse is you are not allowed to pay using RTGS (Zimdollars) as according to them, the pills are imported.

After making the payment, they however discovered that the pills in the treatment kit that cost US$150 included Ivermectin, Omeprazole Prednisone, Zinc, Aspirin, Colchicine and Doxycycline.

In local pharmacies, the prescribed drugs cost about US$25. In most pharmacies, Ivermectin was going for between $5 and $8 for five tablets, Omeprazole US$2 for 10 tablets and US$3 for 30 Prednisolone tablets. Zinc costs $3 per 10 tablets, Aspirin $1 for 30 tablets, Colchicine $8 for a box and Doxycycline $7.

One pharmacist said one could opt for the Azithromycin course which cost $6.

Meanwhile, Trauma centre’s Vivek Solanki trashed the allegations, saying patients were not forced to pay in US dollars as they accept local currency. He accused some patients of exaggerating.

Solanki said US$475 included specialist, medicines, physiotherapy and specially-trained COVID-19 nurses costs, who have to be paid triple wages for risking their lives treating such patients.

The cost, he said, also included full personal protective equipment, IV drips and three rounds of nebulisation with Oxygen and medicines.

More: NewsDay