BULAWAYO — We have all heard about the need for medical check-ups, but if you are a healthy adult, you probably have no plan to see a doctor. When there is nothing to complain about, many of us go for years without a comprehensive medical check-up. Routine medical check-ups though necessary have been ruled out by many as a luxury they cannot afford. Dumisani Ndlovu, a welder, feels fit and healthy and has not gone for a medical check-up for over five years stating that going for medical check-ups is an unnecessary expense he can not afford, as he is earning barely enough to sustain his family.
“The truth of the matter is medical check-ups are very important but I cannot afford to have them done regularly…I send my children to the clinics when they are seriously ill, for mild headaches and stomach aches. I encourage them to take pain killers,” said Ndlovu.
However, doctors advise that people should go for medical check-ups every month so that if they have any disease, these are quickly detected and done away with. Men and women from ages 18-21 should have a wellness visit every year, then “at least” every four years until age 49. From ages 50-64, the recommendation changes to every two years, then becomes yearly.
With 87 percent of Zimbabwe’s population having incomes that are below the poverty datum line, 56 percent of the population having incomes that are below the food datum line and more than 85 percent of employable people not formally employed, accessing health services for most of Zimbabwe’s 12, 9 million people has become a nightmare.
Premier Service Medical Aid Society(Psmas) is the largest medical aid society in Zimbabwe and has a total membership of 802 072 of whom 671 133 are civil servants and 130 939 from the private sector. The Premier Medical Aid Service Medical charges US$50 a month for one to be a member if he/she is not civil servant whilst the Cimas Medical Aid charges US$13 a month.
Charles Gwitira, a medical doctor, said Zimbabweans were not taking medical check-ups seriously and it would have a negative impact on people’s health and lead to many causes for non-communicable diseases which include diabetes, heart failure, renal failure and strokes.
“Check-ups are important especially blood pressure, blood sugar levels, plus or minus cholesterol levels. Check-ups allow early detection and treatment of abnormalities in those, preventing full blown irreversible disease. These are the major causes of non-communicable disease world, major causes of death nowadays,” said Gwitira. He pointed out that Zimbabweans were supposed to take check –ups seriously so as to enhance and increase their life expectancy.
“Zimbabweans are not taking medical health check-ups seriously yet non-communicable diseases are on the rise,” said Gwitira.
However, Carroll Themba Khombe, director for Institute for Rural Technologies, said that people in rural areas could not afford to go for medical check-ups yet they managed to live longer than many.
“They are people who do not have medical aid but are living longer than most of the people who have it…medical check-ups are expensive and the distance is too far especially for the rural communities,” Khombe said.