By Bulawayo Correspondent
THE Community Working Group on Health (CWGH), has slammed government over its decision to hike hospital fees by over 600% saying the move will result in the underprivileged members of society dying at home.
The CWGH is a network of civic community based organisations.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Health announced new hospital user fees and reintroduced maternity fees.
In a circular to local hospitals, Health and Child Care Permanent Secretary Agnes Mahomva announced that Ante-natal ward per day will now cost $200 at Parirenyatwa Hospital, $160 at central hospitals such as Mpilo and United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH), $120 at provincial hospitals and $80 at district hospitals with the same amounts being charged for post-natal care.
Caesarean birth will now cost $2 500 at Parirenyatwa Hospital, $2 500 at Central hospitals and $1 500 at provincial hospitals and $1 000 at district hospitals.
In an interview with NewZimbabwe.com Friday, (CWGH) Executive Director, Itai Rusike said while the organisation understood that hospitals were facing severe cash constraints, the new user fees were way beyond the reach of the general public earning salaries below the poverty datum line.
“The new hospital user fees will kill the health seeking behaviour as people will get sick and die at home because of the fee barrier. We understand that the hospitals are facing severe cash constraints,” said Rusike.
“However, we are concerned that the approved hospital user fees are way beyond the reach of the general public who do not have any medical insurance cover, lack any safety net, are earning salaries below the poverty datum line and hence depend on the public health institutions to access health care services,” he said.
The CWGH Director said most poor people depended on public health services. He said pregnant mothers will be the most affected lot by the new hospital user fees.
“The cost of health services in public institutions has gone beyond the reach of many with the impact being felt seriously in maternity especially for those in need of Caesarean services. The low-income population can no longer afford to get ill, because they cannot afford expensive curative services,” said Rusike.
He urged the government to uphold the health rights of the citizens as enshrined in the Constitution.
“The advent of a new Constitution in Zimbabwe means that government as the guarantor must commit to health as a human right and mobilise domestic resources to fund health benefits that are accessible to all.
“Government should provide quality, affordable health care services, prioritising those populations that have been left behind or are often excluded from universal health coverage as committed to in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he added.