Saturday, December 3, 2022

Botswana investigates South African referral hospitals’ bills

A South African medical doctor has criticized the Botswana Ministry of Health of being disorganized and referring patients who are in “extreme conditions of neglect” to South African health facilities.

Dr N Groenveld told the South African Times Media this week that, “I have attended to quite a few patients referred to private clinics by Botswana’s Department of Public Health. The patients were in extreme conditions of neglect regarding their general health. They arrived with minimal/no documentation regarding their previous treatment in Botswana and language was a significant barrier to communication. Their accounts were paid, on average, within 18 months. I stopped accepting their referrals last year.

Dr Groenveld said the Botswana Ministry of Health should clean up its act before criticizing the first-world medical care provided to their citizens by highly qualified medical personnel working on a “provide now, we’ll pay you whenever we feel like it” basis.

The South African medical doctor was responding to complaints by the Botswana Ministry of Health that South African private hospitals overcharge and give Batswana patients “unnecessary “care for which it pays dearly.

The ministry pays South African private hospitals, including Johannesburg’s Netcare Milpark and Morningside Medi-Clinic, about R104-million a year to treat Batswana who cannot get specialized treatment in the country.

The Botswana government transfers up to 10 patients a week to South African private hospitals for “complex” operations.

The co-ordinator of Botswana’s health hub, Gabolekwe Tlogelang, complained last week that the Ministry of Health suspects that Batswana are being given unnecessary treatment or medication for which the government was charged.

“In a year, we are spending over 100 million pula (R104-million),” he said. “The bills that we see ascribed to us are a lump sum, but are we really paying the right rate? Are we paying for hospitalization which is necessary?”

The Milpark and Morningside hospitals denied overcharging, saying the surgeons and specialists working on their premises were “not in the employ of the hospitals where they practice”.

Tlogelang said Botswana was investigating private-clinic bills to determine if the treatment provided was necessary. The investigation is “just starting”.

Jaco Erasmus, Morningside Medi-Clinic’s manager, said: “Admitting doctors are responsible for the treatment of patients.”

His clinic did not prescribe medication for patients from Gaborone’s Princess Marina Hospital.

Barry Bedford, director of Netcare’s southwest region, who oversees the Milpark hospital, said the institution treated “highly complex and specialized cases that cannot be handled in Botswana”.

Asked if patients were left in intensive care units for longer than necessary, he said: “We totally refute this allegation and would be most interested to investigate any such case with the Botswana government.”

He said “there would be no incentive” to prescribe unnecessary medication because medicine and consumables were “charged at the cost price of the manufacturer, which is the cost price that is paid by the hospital”.

South African Health Department spokesman Fidel Hadebe said the minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, was concerned about “overpricing” at private hospitals.


Read this week's paper