'Lobby for more maternal services funding'

HARARE - Government is being urged to avail more funds to public health institutions to ensure the sustainability of free maternal health.

Former deputy minister of Health, Douglas Mombeshora, told the Daily News yesterday that free health access for pregnant women was critical in reducing maternal deaths of mothers and babies.

“Any loss of life cannot be tolerated. The government, however, has to ensure that there is proper care in the hospitals, proper infrastructure and that drugs are available,” he said.

“It is the duty of the government to see that this sector is properly funded, as nothing is for free.

“The government has to prioritise the availability of drugs in the public hospitals.

“Otherwise this is a good policy aimed at saving lives.

“It was noticed that most of the population cannot afford the services at private hospitals.”

Zimbabwe’s maternal mortality rate is estimated at 960 deaths per 100 000 live births.

According to the United Nations, the rate is significantly higher than the 612 deaths per 100 000 live births recorded in 2005-2006.

The UN lists unaffordable maternity fees, reduced attendance of expectant mothers at antenatal clinics due to associated costs or distances to clinics and the inability of some women to make choices on reproductive health issues due to social or cultural pressures, as major remaining challenges.

David Parirenyatwa, the minister of Health and Child Care, told the Daily News yesterday that free maternal services were designed to help the poor.

“It is generally known that disadvantaged communities or poor people would seek medical attention when their health conditions have deteriorated.  They don’t have much choice but to suffer complications of late medical assistance,” he said.

“This would also result in difficult treatment plans or intervention.

“The overall cost of early treatment is cheaper than treating complicated health issues which would require critical care support.”

Earlier this week, there were reports that Harare Central Hospital was struggling to cope with the large volumes of women flooding the institution in search of free maternity health.

Drugs and bed shortages have also been reported in other general hospitals around the country.

A doctor at Mpilo Central hospital caused a stir last month when he blogged that a vital drug, oxytocin, was out of stock at the institution.

Oxytocin is a critical drug used to induce labour or strengthen contractions during birth and to prevent bleeding after birth.

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