6 September 2012

Zimbabwe: Maternity Fees Not Scrapped

Bulawayo Bureau — THE scrapping of maternity fees at Government hospitals and council clinics continues to be shrouded in confusion with the Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Henry Madzorera, yesterday saying he never sanctioned the move.

On the other hand health institutions which implemented the move following a Government directive two months ago have expressed concern that they were incurring huge losses by providing free maternity services.

In a telephone interview, Dr Madzorera said the Government was yet to announce the scrapping of maternity fees.

"The Government is yet to scrap maternity fees. I think the best thing people can do is to wait for an announcement which will be done when the time is right.

"We have made progress in terms of raising funds through the Health Transition Fund (HTF), but it is pointless to talk about it when we are still planning," he said.

Last month Dr Madzorera said his Ministry had a budget of more than US$430 million for the next five years and had collected US$59 million through HTF.

Despite Dr Madzorera saying he was still to announce the scrapping of maternity fees, the health institutions confirmed that they received circulars at the beginning of July from the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, ordering them to scrap the fees.

The health institutions said they had not received any funds from Government to sustain the maternity services. The Bulawayo City Council, according to a council report, said it was losing between $6 000 and $10 000 per month on maternity fees.

The local authority said it had not received adequate funding from Government to offer the services free of charge. "The director of health services, Dr Zanele Hwalima, confirmed that a letter had been received from the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare availing free services to maternity patients at municipal clinics and other provincial hospitals with effect from July 5, 2012.

"However, she alluded to the fact that the service would affect council revenue. The overall impact is that the council would incur losses of between US$6 000 and US$10 000 per month," read the report. The acting chief executive officer at Mpilo Central Hospital, Dr Wedu Ndebele, said the scrapping of maternity fees had made it more difficult for the hospital to cope with the extra expenses.

"The unavailability of budgeted funds from Government, coupled with the scrapping of maternity fees, has made it more difficult to cope with the financial constraints. The situation would be better if Government disburses the funds to cater for the expenses incurred in offering free maternity fees," said Dr Ndebele.

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