I grew up in a family where healthcare was a big part of our tradition. My parents always had annual medical checkups and this tradition easily became part of my life throughout the years. The fear of doctors is not something new to most people in Africa because most of us don’t visit the doctor for a vast number of reasons. I want to touch on healthcare; share some of my experiences and also let you know what some my friends on social media have to say about healthcare in our country, Zimbabwe.
90% of Zimbabweans are not on medical aid.
I have had problem skin for the longest time! I didn’t understand why I kept getting breakouts and why the over-the-counter medications I kept trying out were not working on my skin. I was spending a lot of money and getting zero results. The wise thing was to simply book an appointment with a Dermatologist right? Wrong! I had to try everything under the sun including self diagnosing my problem until I finally accepted defeat. You would think I didn’t have medical aid cover! I saw the Dermatologist and in just 5 minutes he prescribed some oral medication, an ointment and told me to use only white soap on my skin. I WAS NOT convinced! I mean, here I was spending money on Clinique products and this man tells me the answer is in white soap?? Just like that? I will have you know that he was right though; shame on me! Now when I have a break out I know the exact reason why and I’m glad I made that appointment. It saved me from forking out money every other month on products that were achieving the square root of nothing!
I’m one of those people who’s always on the look out for any abnormalities on my body when I’m not busy checking out how my abs are looking in the mirror that is. Sometime last year round about this time I felt a lump in my breast. It felt uncomfortable and my monthly’s were nowhere close so something was definitely amiss! I have to warn you, the internet is not your friend when you are not well. I went straight to Google and the things I found through the searches were jaw dropping! By the time I went to bed that night I was convinced I had full blown breast cancer and I didn’t sleep a wink. I was the first person to arrive at the doctor the next day and after she ran a few tests she referred me to a surgeon. The long and the short of the story is it turned out I didn’t have breast cancer but what I had was a breast mouse which was pretty large but was safely removed and I have no scar to show for it. The surgeon had a field day with me though because I was nervous as heck on the day of the operation because I couldn’t afford to have the procedure while I was “put to sleep” so I went through it wide awake.
Prevention is better than cure.
I asked a friend of mine, Claire, why it is important to go for doctor visits. She is currently working in Anaesthetics as an Intern at Parirenyatwa Hospital.
3 Reasons Why Doctor Visits Are Important:
- It’s one thing to be exercising and trying to eat healthy but it’s also equally important to have regular checkups at the doctor at least once a year. Having your doctor see you on a regular helps detect disease or illness early. Checkups include but are not limited to screening for cancers, high blood pressure, cholesterol and dental check ups.
- Going for regular check ups helps with establishing a good doctor-patient relationship because you get to spend more time together. You eventually get comfortable sharing your health problems and that fear and anxiety lessens.
- Getting yourself on medical aid cover means you are actually saving money. You are investing now to prevent disease that was going to cost you more when diagnosed later. For example, getting cervical cancer screening with Viac or Pap smear might seem not worth it now but it can save a lot of money in the long run. When diagnosed late, there will be need for chemotherapy and radiotherapy which cost thousands in the long run.
The ONE disadvantage I know that comes with doctor visits is that they are expensive. If I didn’t have medical aid cover I know for a fact I would live through a lot of aches and pains and hope and pray they would disappear.
Below are some of the reasons why some Africans do not go to the doctor:
- First the consultation and tests fees are too high, secondly they always diagnose you with something and lastly I fear of the unknown! @MadamVeeM
- It’s in our culture to cure diseases with natural and cost effective remedies, if you cough you are given gum tree leaves to drink up. If it’s a fever you get Panado Paracetamol. @TKMRushwaya
- Shortfalls are actual chest pains! Worse trying to claim! Better I go to the pharmacy and negotiate an anti-biotic and prescription! @Taffykinz
- Doctors visits when you don’t have medical aid cover are pretty expensive. If you go to government hospitals you might not even get to be seen by a doctor! @Sun_Tzungie
- You will end up getting results that you are HIV Positive and yet you thought you were down with a terrible cold this entire time! @Ubuntu_Queen
- Money is tight and if used for healthcare you will end up with no money for food and other responsibilities.@fadzij
- The way healthcare is in Zimbabwe ,everyone is afraid of doctor’s bills…so they delay it, unless and until it becomes an emergency. @CltreDelicious
Genuinely afraid of needles if I have to get a shot and I’m also afraid of finding out I could have unknown conditions. @madamkerry
PSMAS is the largest healthcare insurance in Zimbabwe and covers mostly civil servants.
I don’t want to lie. Going to see the doctor is a nightmare, waiting for what feels like forever and a day, finding out the pharmacy doesn’t have your prescribed medication and worst of all being told there is a shortfall of however much that time there is no option of paying through plastic money…It’s nothing to look forward to and I don’t blame people for not wanting to put themselves through that.
However, in order to live longer we should all try to prevent things that can easily be prevented or managed.
What are your thoughts on the healthcare system in Zimbabwe? What have been some of your best and worst experiences? Those from other parts of the world, how is your healthcare system?
Let’s talk in the comments section.