BY Donald Chidoori
Speaking at an Insurance Journalist Mentorship Programme breakfast meeting last week, the Chief Executive Officer of one of Zimbabwe’s biggest Medical Aid Societies – Cimas, Mr Vulindlela Ndlovu lashed out at the media for deliberately focusing on the negative issues affecting the medical insurance industry and sensationalising news articles with total disregard of the positives that the insurance industry is doing.
Mr Ndlovu also bemoaned the lack of research in some media articles and the constant failure by some media houses to give the affected parties the right to reply.
“We (medical aid societies) are urging you (journalists) to spend more time on investigating issues and as AHFoZ (Association of Health Care Funders of Zimbabwe) you find we are willing partners in helping in that research in those stories you will be following up. But I think one of the things I want to emphasize on, is the right of reply, so do follow the channels when you are writing the story and try to give all the parties the right of reply.
“In my own experience dealing with the various media this has become better over the years they generally do tend to give us (Cimas) the right of reply,” said Ndlovu.
The Chief Executive was also worried about some misconceptions about medical aid companies that were being peddled by the media that health insurers are making a killing from premiums and the inaccurate reports on the operations of medical aid societies that came out in the media.
“We (medical aid societies) have had our share of misconceptions; sometimes some of the coverage has worrisomely not been accurate, depicting funders like I said as, ‘funders out to fleece you’. As medical aids we don’t think about just growing our books, we think mainly about the welfare of our members, we also think about things that we can do to create a better economy in Zimbabwe.
“This is why at Cimas when we realised that our members were paying lots of money as shortfalls for caesarean section births; we decided that if you have to have a caesar we pay for everything and if you have a normal delivery we would say this is normal,” said Mr Ndlovu.
With the collapse of the public health system medical aid funders and their respective health care facilities have been holding the fort providing world class health services and facilities but this rarely makes it a headline Ndlovu said.
“There are lots of good things that the health insurance industry is doing out there. Medical funders play a critical role in the process of building up capacity of building up infrastructure. Organisations such as Cimas you will notice have got other services that they provide either its clinics, or laboratories. Another key role we play again is in the provision of infrastructure around medical services in the country and we also believe that health care can be an engine for developing this economy. This is a very important issue or subject that should be reported on,” Ndlovu said.
The Cimas Chief Executive emphasised that he was not trying to make the media an extension or appendage of PR departments of medical aid societies but was merely requesting the media to report responsively, objectively and accurately. And not only publish articles that harm the industry and in extension the economy.
“I am not saying criticism is wrong. Criticism is right because it gets us to do things ok, but when you criticise a medical aid; you have got to make management accountable, because they may not be running it properly, not to merely sensationalise issues. Hold us accountable where we need to be held accountable.”
“Our message to you is look for those things that are barely visible that are lurking around that wait to be discovered by you and there is a lot of them in health care in this country”
Mr Ndlovu attributed insufficient research, the inability to look for appropriate and adequate data and the tendency to treat medical health insurance as a daily diary as the causes of inaccurate reporting by the media. He called upon journalists to use repositories of data in the ministry of health and companies like Cimas to substantiate their articles and write factual, objective and fair news reports.
“As medical aid societies one of the advantages we have is that there is a lot of data, we are continuously processing data, and we interact with people at various level of the health care chain so because of that there is a lot you can learn from that data. That is where we are saying your angles have to come from,” he added.
Mr Ndlovu complimented the efforts being made by Zimselctor.com to improve the depth and quality of insurance reporting through the Insurance Journalists Mentorship programme and said that Cimas will try to put up some programs to help members of the press critically define the agenda on the activities of medical aid funders in Zimbabwe.