Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has promised to change health policies so that renal or kidney failure is approached like other chronic ailments including HIV/AIDS with treatment offered free to those suffering from such diseases.
The president made his comments while opening the Sally Mugabe Renal Training Institute at Chitungwiza Hospital on the weekend.
Mr. Mugabe said many renal patients are dying because they can’t afford the high cost of kidney dialysis in a government hospital of some $1,200 a month.
The president, whose first wife Sally died of kidney failure in 1992, said the Finance Ministry is working on a scheme whereby kidney patients will pay only administrative fees while the government will reimburse hospitals for other costs.
President Mugabe blamed Western sanctions for the difficulties facing hospitals trying to upgrade equipment.
"Cognizant of the effect of sanctions on our patients, Chitungwiza Central Hospital became proactive and set up a renal unit to treat patients," Mr. Mugabe said. "This is a new paradigm shift as we vigorously fight these illegal sanctions."
But Dr. Douglas Gwatidzo, chairman of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that although it is a noble idea to offer treatment free of charge to renal patients, Zimbabwe cannot afford it now.