Government has introduced a health policy that denies medical coverage to people who get injured during alcohol-related incidents including those associated with suicide and lung cancer.
Already, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has been instructed to exclude those who get injured due to alcohol and drug related activities from medical coverage. This is contained in a savingram from the Ministry’s permanent secretary, Shenaz El-Halabi dated March 29, 2017, titled ‘Removal from medical cover for self-inflicted harm’ addressed to the District Health Management Team (DHMT) heads.
The savingram states that the implementation of removal of medical cover for self-inflicted injuries will be on; drunk-driving, riding motorbikes without helmet, failure to use seat belts for self or children as passengers, participation in riots and mass gatherings involving violence leading to injury, lung cancer associated with tobacco and tobacco products, and attempted suicide related to alcohol or drug abuse.
This move has to be condemned with the strongest possible voice shouting from the rafters. We should rather deal with the problems we know in our society to be causes of the above mentioned problems. These could include social ills and in some instances conditions people did not choose. The right to medical care should never be compromised, rather keep on increasing the levy. El-Halabi states that it has become increasingly clear that the cost of sustaining medical services has continued to escalate and while a new health financing strategy, which will articulate various health funding modalities is being developed, it has been decided that some services given in some segment of patients will now have to be paid for.
This is not excusable. There are many ways Governments can make up for the monies lost and denying people
El-Halabi explains that the fundamental principle behind the removal of medical cover on self-harm is that those responsible for causing injury to themselves should meet the medical cost of their treatment. The costs include the recovery of the ambulance journey costs. The definition of self-harm also can never be standard. There are illnesses that come about as a result of self-harm including those caused by not eating healthy. One can argue that such people should also be made to pay for medical bills.
We would like to urge the Batswana, civil society, the media and whoever can to speak up against this injustice. Whether or not one drinks alcohol, they can never drink it purely for the sake of harming themselves. As long as the Government allows the sale and use of alcohol and cigarettes, he must be willing to pay medical bills for those injured regardless of who did it to them. If they have committed any offences during the time they got hurt, then our justice system is there to deal with them.
“If we don’t figure out a way to create equity, real equity, of opportunity and access, to good schools, housing, health care, and decent paying jobs, we’re not going to survive as a productive
and healthy society.”
– Tim Wise