Private hospitals in Zimbabwe are charging massive amounts of money - in foreign currency - for Covid-19 treatment.
With government hospitals ill-equipped, and with doctors and nurses on strike, the only hope available for those needing treatment is private care - something beyond the reach of many.
“Kindly be advised that all Covid patients are required to pay USD (American dollars) deposits, $60 (R1,080) for casualty, $3,000 (R54,000) for General Ward and $5,000 (R90,000) for ICU (Intensive Care) hospitalisation,” Obedience Ncube, credit controller for the Catholic run Mata Dei Hospital in Bulawayo, said in a statement.
A government worker earns the equivalent of US$30 (R540), which is about half the fee for a basic Covid-19 test at a private hospital.
Nurses this week said “no USD salaries, no work” as they vowed to stay away.
“The salaries we are currently earning are meagre. They amount to slave wages ... to those who have been subsidising our employer by going to work, mostly because you have an alternative source of income, we call upon you to reconsider this and withdraw your labour as well,” the Zimbabwe Nurses' Association (Zina) said.
The situation has been made worse with the skeleton staff at public health-care facilities testing positive for Covid-19, thereby being sent home for quarantine. Sixty-eight nurses (student and managers) tested positive in one day at the United Bulawayo Hospitals and they have since been sent home. They were tested after one patient died of the disease.
The government this month began hiring newly graduated nurses but some of them don’t want to report to work.
“I was assigned to a Covid-19 centre. I won’t go because my contract stipulates that I have three months to report for duty. This is like being deployed to the war front after training and above all there’s no money,” said a male nurse.
In Harare, The Avenues Clinic said it has put in place “elective admissions” whereby “emergency cases should have at least an RTD (resistance temperature detector) done”.
The hospital also said all admissions should provide proof of a Covid-19 negative test.
To date, Zimbabwe has recorded 605 confirmed cases, 166 recoveries and seven deaths out of 68,400 tests.