Doctors turn civil servants away
The Finance Ministry this week paid out N$50 million, which is a portion of the outstanding fees owed to medical service providers by the Public Service Employee Medical Aid Scheme (PSEMAS) for December and January, a position which has resulted in public servants being turned away by doctors or being forced to pay cash up front.
Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary, Ericah Shafuda, told the Windhoek Observer on Thursday that more payments would be made for the amounts owed in January, but could not confirm the total amount that would be paid.
She, however, denied assertions that the payment delays were linked to the Government’s ongoing cash crunch.
Shafuda said the delay was due to a tip-off they received that some medical service providers were milking PSEMAS, without offering any tangible services to its clients, and hence an audit had commenced to ascertain the authenticity of these claims.
She said that although investigations were continuing, there were signs that there were some irregularities in the claims that were being paid out.
Several medical service providers said this week that PSEMAS has failed to settle their claims, dating back to December 2016, a situation that had forced some of them to start turning away members of the fund.
Some medical service providers had even failed to pay staff salaries in January, as they are heavily reliant on the PSEMAS payments, which are normally made on a weekly basis.
They said PSEMAS had failed to communicate anything to them about the late payments.
One doctor said his employer had not paid him his January salary, because of delays with the PSEMAS payments.
“Our employer said they had financed our December salaries from their savings, and were now not in a position to do so for the second month running, due to lack of funds.
“Most of our clients come from the public sector, and hence they constitute the bulk of our income. But now without them owning up to their payments, we are left in the dark,” said the medical practitioner, who preferred anonymity.
Shafuda could not say whether PSEMAS had communicated the fact that there would be late payments to the affected service providers.
“Yes, there was a delay in the payments of the December and January monies, but I can confirm to you that we made the first payment of N$30 million, for the outstanding December money, on Monday this week and today (Thursday) I made another one of N$20 million.
“As for those that say they have not yet received their money, I would not know why, as these payments made were the total amounts that were forwarded to my office for payments,” Shafuda said.
“Those with outstanding amounts for January, that payment will be made next week, and I cannot disclose the total amount, as there are different claims, and I would need to be in my office to give you the total amount that we are going to pay next week.”
The finance ministry accounting officer said she had not heard of any public servant being turned away by a doctor or medical facility.
Khomas Medical Centre (KMC) Managing Partner, Dr Christo Burger, confirmed that they had last received payments from PSEMAS on 27 December last year.
He said they had previously experienced delays in payments, but these were mostly during the first three months of the year, amid preparations for the national budget and new financial year.
“We have not turned any (PSEMAS) members away, due to this non-payment, as we feel we are offering an essential service to the nation. We understand the financial situation the country is faced with, and it is not only within the medical fraternity, but all sectors are affected,” Dr Burger said.
“It is quite obvious that our financial position has changed now, due to the lack of cash flow in our country at the moment, and there is real need for businesses to restructure their business models and make them leaner, to be able to handle this financial crunch going forward.
“PSEMAS plays a huge role in our operations, as clients from them constitute between 60 and 70 percent of our patients. I know a lot of private doctors who turned away these clients, but for us we are not here to just take money from Government every month, but to assist by offering these essential services.
“But when there is a problem, they must also tell us in time, for us to make the necessary decisions, while they settle whatever challenges they would be faced with. We are definitely in cash flow problems, but we are currently managing it in-house,” Dr Burger said.
“We need to pay salaries for our 14 general practitioners and 70 personnel working here, and at the various seven practices around Windhoek, and this definitely has an impact on my practise, as we had previously received weekly payments, and hence we had a consistent cash flow.”