A SIGNIFICANT number of private health facilities treating National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) beneficiaries are in financial distress following delays to get back their returns from the fund.
The survey established that operators of some of the facilities find it difficult to meet their financial obligations which include paying back bank loans they used to start up their facilities.
Other financial obligations include paying various taxes to government authorities and salaries to workers as well as and procurement of medicine and medical equipments for smooth running of their operations.
The situation is made worse as NHIF beneficiaries constitute the majority of daily patients in hospitals, dispensaries and health centres. According to some operators, NHIF card holders are estimated to make about 80 per cent of all patients who go to health facilities for medical service daily.
The Chief Executive Officer of APHFTA, an Umbrella Organization of the Private (Self Sustaining) Health Sector in Tanzania, Dr Samwel Ogillo confirmed about the problem but said he understood measures to address it were underway.
“It is true we are facing that problem but we have engaged NHIF and I understand they are working on it,” said Dr Ogillo over the telephone from Arusha. He said delays in processing of returns were taking as long as six months to some of their members which impact negatively in their operations.
“Delays in processing returns from NHIF are subjecting our members into liquidity challenges which affect their operations but I am thinking this will end soon.” The NHIF Director General, Dr Bernard Konga, said delays in processing returns to health facilities was a serious problem the fund was dealing with but added he was optimistic it would end soon because of drastic measures taken by the fund.
He said the delays in processing the return were partly contributed by the need to conduct proper verification on claims brought to the fund for proper management of public funds. He said NHIF had also employed more staff and were now embarking on electronic payment system to help in speeding up the processing work of returns.
“We admit the problem is serious but we are working hard to address it. Some of the challenges which contribute to delays is workload but we have so far recruited 88 staff in the past three months and we have started electronic payment system in a pilot project to four public hospitals,” said Dr Konga over the telephone.
According to him, integrated hospital management system has started on pilot project at Muhimbili Orthopaedic Institute (MOI), Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI), Mbeya Referral Hospital and Benjamin Mkapa hospital in Dodoma.
According to him, plans were at initial stages to begin another pilot project for electronic payment system to three private hos pitals. He declined to mention the hospitals but said the project would be rolled to all private hospitals if it would be successful.
The National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) is a compulsory Health Insurance Scheme established to ensure accessibility of health care services to all central government employees as well as formulating and promulgate policies for sound administration of the scheme.
The Act establishing the Fund was further amended to include private sector institutions, individual members and their respective legal dependents that joined the Fund on voluntary basis