Keep diagnosis fees down for TB patients: Parirenyatwa

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THE Minister of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), Dr David Parirenyatwa has called on health services providers, especially in the private sector, not to raise consultation and diagnosis fees for TB patients.
Speaking at this year’s World TB Day commemorations in Chitungwiza last week, Dr Parirenyatwa said the country was among the 22 high TB disease burden nations hence the need to extend treatment to the vulnerable groups.
“I urge health care providers not to increase their diagnosis fees,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
“If its US$5 for an adult and US$3 for a child, let it remain there.
“We continue to miss cases because of stigma and lack of awareness in the community and limitations in access to health services as well as the quality of health services.”
The call by the Minister comes at a time Government is in the process of negotiating medical and consultation fees with practitioners.
Last year, Government ordered all service providers not to increase fees until it came up with a uniform fee as service providers increased them unilaterally.
“Our people do not have money and most of them do not afford the ever increasing diagnosis fees,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), of the nine million people a year who get tuberculosis, a third are ‘missed’ by health systems.
Many of these three million people live in vulnerable communities or are among marginalised populations such as migrant workers, refugees and internally displaced persons and prisoners
According to the MoHCC, TB treatment in government facilities is for free. Patients only part with their money when they are undergoing diagnosis usually through x-ray scans.
Usually, Government and private hospitals alike charge exorbitant fees for x-ray scan examination and other diagnostic processes.
The amount, which is usually an armful, is demanded upfront before any medical check-ups are done.
Dr Parirenyatwa said if the fees were kept at a standard figure, people would be able to get tested for TB.
The ministry revealed that in the past three years diagnostic capacity had been increased.
“The numbers of TB centres able to perform TB microscopy have doubled over the past three years from 100 to 200,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
“At the beginning of 2013, the ministry had 13 GeneXpert machines, but now it has a total of 58 GeneXpert machines installed in various centres throughout the country.”
The increasing availability of diagnostic centres is meant to offer cheap TB testing to patients across the country so that the estimated 30 000 ‘left out’ TB cases in Zimbabwe are met.
Mycobacterium Tuberculosis was first discovered on March 24 1882 by Dr Robert Koch as the bacteria that causes Tuberculosis (TB).
The known symptoms of TB are; persistent coughing exceeding two weeks, difficulty in breathing, chest pains, night sweats and fever and loss of appetite and weight.
At this point, one is advised to go for both TB and HIV testing since the two are closely interlinked in Zimbabwe.

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