Muhimbili National Hospital will by the middle of this month have put in place a new medical billing system demanding that patients be attended to only after paying for whatever services they will ultimately get.
As is the case with almost everyone, one’s pay cheque does not magically meet the emergencies one will be facing. On the contrary, chances are that the last of it is done before one can count the zeros one wishes there were more of.
Now, assuming one’s loved one falls sick and one has no health insurance (only 18.5 per cent of Tanzanians are covered by the National Health Insurance Fund), isn’t it safe to assume that one is then effectively left to one’s own fate?
Such a scenario would make patients have no option but to turn to those around them, including family members, friends and workmates. That would be in agreement with the proverb that it takes a village to maintain one’s wellbeing.
MNH’s new billing system allows for just that, third parties paying people’s medical bills from some remote locations. In other words, the system has empowered the entire community to come to each others’ assistance without all having to be in the same location.
So let’s replay the scenario…you or a loved one falls sick...only now that instead of being left to the mercy of merciless nature, you get a billing slip from MNH detailing the amount your treatment will cost – and the compassionate third party pays the bill on your behalf at any branch of some designated financial institution.
It sounds like a cumbersome process, yes, but is it really without its advantages? One would be only a telephone call away from having one’s bill settled, wrong? However, it would be wrong to ignore the fate of emergency victims.
But here is an instant word of consolation from an MNH official, as made to this paper yesterday: “Emergency cases will be attended to first, with the billing coming later.
That leaves two other hurdles, though, one being the danger of the small number of outlets the bank (in this case NMB Bank) has in the country limiting number of the points where payments, the alternative being that the paying party will have to travel to wherever the nearest branch is.
The other is the fact that MNH is easily and the biggest and busiest hospital in Tanzania, while it appears there will be only three pay points.
That raises understandable concerns about the possibility of congestion at the points and the various consequences of such a development.
But all things considered, having one’s medical bill settled “by remote control” is cause for some solace and makes the pendulum swing in favour of the system introduced by MNH.
Imagine the effect this will have when a dispensary in some remote rural area is part of the programme and then more financial institutions follow suit.
That would enable people to have their medical bills settled from practically anywhere in the world – that is, ensuring that it is not only a child that is raised but an entire nation that is nurtured. Indeed, it would have taken a village.