Already coping with triple-digit inflation and acute shortages of food, fuel and drugs, Zimbabweans this week faced huge increases in fees for hospital consultations, procedures and surgery with some of the price jumps far in excess of 1,000%.
Consultations at state-operated hospitals have soared from 300 Zimbabwean dollars to Z$800,000 to Z$1 million (US$8-US$10 at the official exchange rate). The move follows government authorization of price hikes of up to 100% for private clinics.
The government blames the increases on inflation which ran at 913% in the 12 months through March. But critics say the new fees hurt Zimbabweans struggling to survive.
Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association President Takaruda Chinyoka told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that while the fee increases are necessary, he worries about their impact on the general population.
Deputy Health Minister Edwin Muguti defended the fee increases, saying there was no alternative if the government was to keep public hospitals running.