Scores of Zimbabweans are crossing the Beitbridge Border Post on a daily basis to seek medical attention in South Africa, as drug and medical equipment shortages continue to haunt hospitals north of the Limpopo River.
Others who can afford visit private doctors in the neighbouring country, citing the availability of drugs and modern equipment for diagnosis.
A guard at Musina Clinic said on a daily basis, they have more than 20 patients who are Zimbabwean passport holders.
“For registration of patients and putting them in the right queue, we ask for identification in form of a pass (identity card) or passport. We identify Zimbabweans by their passports,” the guard said.
Instead of addresses, the guards collect phone numbers and on their list were a number of mobile numbers from Zimbabwe’s mobile network service providers.
A Zimbabwean patient, who identified herself as Alice Mbedzi, said she decided to cross into South Africa after she realised she could not get medication from Beitbridge District Hospital.
“Each time I visited Beitbridge Hospital, I paid $12, but this would only be for diagnosis. I had to pay more money to buy drugs from pharmacies,” she said.
“In Musina, I pay R130 inclusive of my diagnosis and treatment drugs which works out to be more reasonable and within reach.
“We take a leaf from our leaders, they shun local hospitals for treatment outside the country. They lead by example.”
Zimbabwean politicians and senior government officials opt for foreign hospitals as they shun local institutions, which have been run down following decades of underfunding by government.
Former President Robert Mugabe used to frequently fly to Singapore, where he received treatment over and above regular reviews.
Incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa, after his poisoning saga last August, was rushed to South Africa, a country the late MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai also frequented for treatment until his death in February this year.
Latest politicians to undergo medical treatment in South Africa are Vice-President Kembo Mohadi and Zanu PF chairperson and Cabinet Oppah Muchinguri, who were both injured in a bomb blast at a rally in Bulawayo in June this year.
Nurses at Musina Clinic are now used to receiving Zimbabwean patients and now give instructions in all South Africa languages then wrap-up in Shona, a language widely spoken in Beitbridge.
“Our business is to drive the message to our clients — the patients — so we say it in every language. We don’t discriminate,” a nurse, who had just finished giving antenatal instructions to expectant mothers, said.
Another Zimbabwean said each time she visited Musina clinic, in the last two years, she found staff to be courteous and willing to listen.
“I think back home it’s because there is lack of medication and other instruments, which affects our nurses who are impatient more often than not,” the patient said.
The Zimbabwean health delivery system has, for over two decades, been on a decline, as government fails to allocate at least 15% of the national budget to health care in line with the Abuja Declaration target.
Thousands of medical personnel have left Zimbabwe for greener pastures around the globe, making the country a training ground for health professionals elsewhere.
Hospitals are top-heavy, with several administrative jobs being duplicated, resulting in salaries eating more into the budget instead of service delivery.
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