Saturday, 29 February 2020

CLINICS TURN PATIENTS AWAY


THE cost of basic health care at Bulawayo clinics mainly serving people who cannot afford private doctors and hospitals has gone up, putting lives of thousands of people at risk.

The local authority has started implementing its wholesome tariff increase of more than 700 percent after the Government approved the city’s 2020 budget projections. Sunday News visited some of the council-run facilities last week where some patients expressed shock at the new fees demanded by the clinics.

According to the new charges, basic consultation fees for adults has been reviewed from $5 to $96,41, with children above five years of age now required to pay $72,30, from $2. For maternity, expecting mothers are now expected to pay $361,52, up from $30. Doctor’s consultation for children have been pegged at $96,41 while adults will fork out $421,77. Dressing wounds is now pegged at $24,10, suturing has been pegged at $48,20 and removal of sutures now costs $48,20. 

“This is too much, how do you expect a poor pregnant mother to raise almost $400. The Government must restore free maternity fees or at least subside this,” said Mrs Memory Moyo, who was going for a review at Pelendaba Clinic and maternity centre in the city.

Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) co-ordinator, Mr Emmanuel Ndlovu took a swipe at the local authority saying the move was “inhumane”. He said as residents they were going to meet this week to discuss the new fees and forward their official position to the local authority.

“Council should be looking at the implications of such an increase not just forcing it down on residents. Very soon the majority of residents will not afford basic health care which has a danger of increasing the death rate in the city, which in itself is inhumane. Further this comes at a time when the health sector is depleted, there is actually no relation at all between the increase and the state of the health sector in the city. There is serious staff shortages, no medicine and no key infrastructure. One pays all this  not to get full value for his or her money,” said Mr Ndlovu.

He said what shocked residents was that the local authority was not making an effort to engage residents over the increase with personnel at the clinics turning away patients who do not have the money. 

“We are not saying BCC should not increase their rates as we fully understand that with this state of economy such increases are bound to happen but they should be reasonable. We are also fully aware that as it stands the local authority is using 50 percent of what it collects for salaries, so this is one thing which also has to be balanced,” said Mr Ndlovu.

City Mayor Councillor Solomon Mguni said while they sympathised with residents, council also had the responsibility of providing a service and “under-charging” could jeopardise service delivery.

“We fully understand that residents do not have the disposable income which in itself is a reflection of the economic situation currently bedevilling the country but council also has a service to provide. If the user fees are drastically reduced you will find that service delivery at our health facilities will  seriously be affected. Further, we should bear in mind that some of the medicine disbursed at our clinics is bought outside the country hence there is a lot of charges that we have to consider for us to sustain our clinics,” said Clr Mguni.

On calls to reduce the user fees, the mayor said while they might consider it, it was largely impossible as the figures were all contained in the budget.

“It is impossible to change one thing and leave the next but we will look at it focusing on vulnerable groups, children and the elderly, all in a bid to balance the equation,” said Clr Mguni. Sunday News

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