The rise of a membership-based organisation
In October 1930 a special committee was appointed by the Public Service Association to begin operations for the Society. The first members were recruited in November 1930. By September 1931, membership stood at 258 beneficiaries. In 1934 membership was at 660 beneficiaries. By then expenditure had increased so much that the society had to negotiate with the British Medical Association to allow discounts for medical services. Other measures to reduce expenditure were considered, such as cutting benefits rather than increasing contributions and a non-claim bonus was suggested. In 1938 a circular was issued that any member was at liberty to move amendments to the committee’s proposals at the Annual General Meeting. This policy is still valid today.
Membership fluctuated between 2 474 and 3 564 mainly because of the effects of the Second World War. In 1943 the Rhodesia Teachers Association requested that Coloured and Asian teachers be allowed to join the society. This received a negative vote at the AGM of 12 June 1944. An association was formed to represent medical aid societies in negotiating with the British Medical Association on tariffs for medical services. In 1945 the Benevolent Compassionate-Fund was introduced to assist those in dire need of assistance. In 1946 the Dental benefit was introduced at £1.6p per beneficiary. By the end of this decade, membership stood at 3564 beneficiaries.
Membership was on the increase, from 3 564 in the previous decade to 23 687 beneficiaries. There were now 5 members of staff. Due to the increasing costs, it was suggested that the society employ its own doctors with a view to cutting costs. In 1951, after amending its tariff policies, PSMAS applied to RCMAS for membership. An agreement between members of RMAS was negotiated, which allowed transfer between societies for members to enjoy benefits. In September 1952, Asiatic and coloured Government employees were admitted through the initiative of a great man called Mr Savanhu. In 1957, age limit for members joining PSMAS was extended from 50 to 60 years. PSMAS resigned from what was then called Rhodesia Association of Medical aid Societies(RAMAS) due to differences in professionalism.
This decade saw an increase in membership with a total of 33559 beneficiaries by 1969. The society now employed 29 full time employees. In 1963, PSMAS passed a vote that old aged dependants could join the society although the Government refused to contribute towards such dependants. In 1964, due to the dissolution of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, a new rule was passed to allow members to contribute in their own right, provided they were previously members before the dissolution, at a monthly contribution of £1 5p per beneficiary. In 1967, medicines and drugs benefit was introduced at an annual limit of £10 per beneficiary. E.S.C (Electricity Supply Commission) joined PSMAS in 1967.
PSMAS was asked to resign from NAMAS for “undermining the Association ‘s common tariff by paying full awards to pathologists on charges introduced by them, and also for negotiating with the pathologist.”. It is true history does repeat itself. Twenty-seven years later PSMAS was again expelled for this same reason trying to meet the needs of its valued members. Later Medical Aid of Central Africa(MASCA), Bulawayo Municipality and Rhodesia Railways Medical Fund followed suit. The Rhodesia Relative Value Schedule was introduced. In 1978, a meeting was held to change the name of the society, as the present name was considered restrictive. However, this was unsuccessful. In 1979, membership was at 41 266 beneficiaries, with a total staff complement of just over 50.
This decade saw a dramatic increase in membership from 41 266 beneficiaries to a record 143 311 beneficiaries. This was due to the Independence of the country that saw the majority of people being offered employment that offered medical aid as a condition of service. These achievements brought a whole new horizon to the lives of these people and, of course, a gratifying feeling to the employees of the society. The membership increase was matched by a corresponding increase in claims and new demands for services like decentralisation, introduction of more products suited to meet the changing needs of the market. This challenge left the management researching on the best way of satisfying these needs without exposing the existing members, which is one of its major responsibilities.
PSMAS placed more emphasis on meeting its members expectations such as serving them within the shortest possible time with as little bureaucracy as possible and hence the need to decentralise its operations. This saw the opening of Bulawayo Branch. During the same decade the Primary Plan was introduced to cater for those members who could not afford the Main Plan subscriptions although they wish to be covered on Medical Aid. The Premier Plan was launched to meet the needs and expectations of the top end of the market. Membership was now well over 400 000 at the end of this decade.
This decade also saw the refurbishment of the Head Office, to the PSMAS House we see now.
2000 and beyond
Yet more branches were opened, resulting in offices in Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, Masvingo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Bindura, Gwanda, Beitbridge, Chiredzi, to satisfy the increased geographical diversity of PSMAS Members. A vote to change the constitution was passed at the 2001 AGM to allow Private Sector Companies and Individuals to join the Society. A subsequent vote to change the name of the Organisation was also passed to reflect the diversity of membership, and Premier Service Medical Aid Society came to be, still maintaining the acronym PSMAS
An investment wing was established to safeguard the members’ funds, PSMI, and like a wildfire Medical Units started mushrooming across the country. Clinics, Labs, Pharmacies, Hospitals, Dental Centers, Rehab Centers were planted around the country in an unprecedented rate of expansion in this country. Members still had the choice to access a medical facility of their choice, but this gave them even more choice as they would always be welcome at a PSMI facility, and not be subjected to upfront cash demands before getting service.
Despite the economic upheavals the country went through towards the end of the decade, because of the vision of the PSMAS leadership, the society was able to retain its membership, and closed the decade with over 500,000 beneficiaries.
Membership now stands at over 600,000 beneficiaries, a clear testimony of how PSMAS has stood the test of time, and yet still continues to grow to numbers unimaginable at its conception.
PSMAS continues to seek more ways to deliver quality service to its members and will always pay attention to each member, as we value each one.
At 82 years, the future is already here for PSMAS, and the drive to retain members and welcome new ones is just as great today as it was when the Society began.