Government has given traditional healers the green light to start their own medical aid societies after revelations that over 80 percent of Zimbabweans prefer their services. Speaking during the Ministry of Health and Child Care public consultations for the Medical Aid Societies Bill last week, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry Dr Gerald Gwinji said traditional healers had a right to start their own medical insurance schemes.
Mr Shooter Ngwenya from the International Traditional Healers Association had said medical aid schemes should consider covering traditional healers’ patients.
“We have clients who do not have cash given the current crisis that we all know about,” he said.
“They come and we offer our services and they normally ask us to go to their medical aid societies and claim our dues.
“We also need our payments as our services have restored a life to many. More than 80 percent of people may seek medical services, but the truth is they also come to us.”
According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Health and Child Care, up to 85 percent of Zimbabweans are shunning doctors and consulting prophets, faith and traditional healers for illnesses.
In response, Dr Gwinji said: “Just as much as they (traditional healers) have their own associations, they have got this right to form a fund, of course. We have burial societies that people have. It is some form of insurance, which is created by communities outside the registered service providers.
“You cannot stop them from forming such, it’s not a formal registered insurance, but it exists to serve these groups’ clients as people do consult traditional healers.”
Dr Gwinji said Government was not in a position to ask medical aid societies to pay for the services of traditional healers.
“However, you cannot go to Cimas, for example, and force it to take certain sectors, which it has not defined on its own and the generality of the membership has not been notified, he said. Medical aid societies can consider that option if their members bring it up.”
Dr Gwinji added: “If at the AGM (Annual General Meeting) all members stand up and say we now want to pay fees to registered traditional practitioners, it is an issue that Cimas must consider as it comes through the general meeting of its own membership.”
He said the new Bill was meant to ensure that medical aid societies were regulated.
“The law cannot prescribe and force that,” Dr Gwinji said. “Right now if all medical aid societies decide that business is not worth it, we cannot force any to continue doing medical aid business.
“It is their own free choice to say I want to run this business or not.”
Dr Gwinji said Government had consulted a number of stakeholders on the proposed Bill and hoped to conclude the consultations by September.
“We met the practitioners,” he said. “Today we were meeting with stakeholders from the southern part of the country. We will hold the final consultation with medical aid societies and then conclude the discussions.
“This is a consultation in the development of a new law. We are currently regulated under a statutory instrument admitted by the ministry and it’s a subsidiary of the Medical Services Act.
Last year Zinatha president Mr George Kandiero said prophets, Pentecostal church pastors and faith healers were traditional healers by definition and should thus be registered with relevant organisations. He said registration of traditional healers was important for the protection of citizens.
“We, therefore, need a regulatory framework that assures people, who are insured, that their insurance can be used for the services that they want to get. That has been one of the major challenges and the current Act does not give us enough room to manoeuvre to solve those challenges.”-Herald