Govt waives healthcare fees for the vulnerable

HARARE - Government is enacting a legal instrument to enforce the policy of protecting the poor and vulnerable populations from healthcare charges, a Cabinet minister has said.

David Parirenyatwa, the Health and Child Care minister last week told the Daily News government was working on a statutory instrument that exempts the elderly and minors from paying user fees at public health facilities.

This comes as State health facilities are refusing to offer exemptions to vulnerable groups, especially pregnant mothers and children under the age of five who are in greater chance of being affected by diseases, especially the communicable ones, and citizens aged 65 years and above..

“Mothers, over 65 and under-fives — these are special groups who critically need these services,” Parirenyatwa said on the side-lines of the signing ceremony of a $13 million Health Transition Fund from the European Union last week.

“We know councils and other government institutions are finding a way of going around the name user fees and demand that such people pay something like a card fee, which is exactly the same payment.

“The only way to address that is to put up a statutory instrument.”

Harare City Council has categorically stated that mothers will continue paying user fees amounting to $25 for maternity services until government is able to subsidise the service.

Itai Rusike, the Community Working Group on Health boss, said government must come out clear on the policy, arguing that the confusion is negatively impacting on disadvantaged groups’ enjoyment of healthcare.

“It has been reported to us from our members that certain provincial and central hospitals are now charging a fee to all clients, irrespective of whether the clients are exempted as per the government policy on user fees,” Rusike said.

“If it is now policy that all patients are charged for these services, can this be made clear?”

Section 76 of the Zimbabwean Constitution provides for the right to basic health care.

But the realisation of this right remains elusive because of a funding shortfall which has left the sector operating on obsolete equipment and skeletal staff.

Ruth Labode, chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Health, said hopes of fulfilling “Health for All by 2020” remains a pipe dream under the current conditions.

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