By Edward Makuzva
It is a Thursday afternoon and Simon Kanenga (75) a pensioner from Masvingo,smiles to himself in anticipation of a new lease of life from the National Social Security Authority (NSSA).
The authority has announced that it is in the process of setting up pensioners’ mobile clinics in its six regions which include Kanengas’ area.
However, Kanengas’ smile is shortlived when he remembers that he had just buried his childhood friend from diabetes.
Again,its been years since he has also been diagnosed with the same disease and has concluded that it could be hereditary as most of his family members succumbed to it.
That was five years ago when he was still employed at Colcom for where he worked for 33 years.
While he was still working on how to manage this new entrant to his life,they had retired him on old age basis.
Kanenga had no choice but to relocate to his rural home where despite healthcare being free for the aged, the necessary medication has never been available, leading him to neglect himself as the paltry pension payouts he gets is not enough.
But the upon hearing the NSSAs’ intention he can only but wish his friend had lived a little longer,maybe he could have survived .
According to NSSA,this clinic will provide door to door services to pensioners.
“I was very scared because we recently buried a friend of mine who succumbed to diabetes.We worked together and got retired together.He was my childhood friend.My situation is even worse because I also have high blood pressure which also require medical attention.I can’t afford.I have no money to pay my medical bills and my condition is worsening everyday. Many thanks to NSSA for the introduction of health clinics for pensioners.I hope it reaches us sooner than later”he said.
“Imagine im earning RTGS 40000 per month which is too little sustain my life that’s because I need food, accommodation and fees for my grandchildren whose parents passed away during the Covid-19 pandemic .I am proud of this initiative because prior to this, whenever I could,I had to travel a long distance to have my check my blood pressure (BP) assessed, and get medication.”
Last year Nssa launched this facility in Harare and it’s now moving to the rural areas.
Many pensioners like Kanenga said this facility couldnt have come at any other opportune time.
Like Kanenga they had resigned to fate as the ever worsening situation for pensioners, had seen access to quality health care constrained.
The situation has been exercerbated by an unstable macro economic environment has seen savings eroded.
With galloping inflation, pensioners’ buying power is fast being eroded leaving health as a luxury which they can’t afford.
The situation have been worse for those in the rural areas with little or no alternative medical care facilities.
Amidst a multi currency economic crisis ,pension has in the past been the most visible Program of any social security scheme,as it is meant to provide protection for citizens from old age poverty.
But Zimbabwe which has been recording economic stagnation from the early 2000 ,have seen pensioners at the bitter end of the bargain.
As the demand for health care is unlike the demand for most consumer products , the desire for improved health care has become a night mare.
“Access to health is still a challenge as pensioners. Even though the right to health is enshrined in the constitution, we have realised that a lot of people are failing to access health facilities”, narrates Stella Dube ( 67)
Dube ,a former credit clerk who now resides in Muzarabani communal lands in Mashonaland Central Province, said it was sad that most senior citizens had given their whole active life for the development of the nation but no longer able to actively support themselves and families as a result of vast economic ills.
“Rising health cost is had been a burden for pensioners. Certainly, this matter is a perennial concern for most pensioners, especially those whose benefits are not little and don’t have medical aid to sustain their health benefits”, Dube explained.
In an interview with The Observer, NSSA deputy director of Marketing and Communication, Mr Tendai Mutseyekwa, said the authority has scheduled mobile clinic visits, bringing the service to the doors of pensioners.
“NSSA has health at heart, it will soon have scheduled mobile clinic visits bringing the service to the doors of pensioners, thereby leaving no one and no area behind.
“In addition, NSSA will be purchasing six mobile clinics to complement the pensioners clinics. Both clinics will provide primary health care and dispense relevant medications,” said Mr Mutseyekwa .
Mr Mutseyekwa highlighted that NSSA is in the process of setting up pensioners’ clinics in its six regions — Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Gweru, Masvingo and Chinhoyi.
He said the Harare clinic one, which is situated in the Avenues area, is ready to open, subject to granting of a pending licence. Others are at various stages of development and set to open before year-end.
Mr Mutseyekwa added that pensioners will not be required to pay anything for both consultations and prescriptions.
Close to 160,000 pensioners are on the NSSA payroll.
On average ,pensioners are earning ZW$ 40000 per month which is too little sustain their lives.
Officially opening the facility, the Public Service and Social Welfare Minister, Professor Paul Mavhima said it was government’s desire that social protection measures are put in place to mitigate against challenges that are associated with loss of income due to various reasons, which include old age leading to retirement.
“We all know that as we grow older, we become more susceptible to chronic and other illnesses. As such, we will have to spend more of our income on medical expenses.
“It is, therefore, appropriate for our social security providers to chip in and help lessen the burden by providing affordable health services,” minister Mavhima explained.
The clinic is for pensioners and NSSA staff.
Meanwhile, statistics revealed that currently, about 1.4million Zimbabweans are covered under the social security schemes against an estimated total labour force of 3.913 million.
The Zimbabwean pensioner now has his eyes fixed on NSSA to deliver on the promise of health.
Should the authority chooses to be loyal, the health of the Zimbabwean pensioner is guaranteed.