Sunday Mail Midlands Correspondent
GOVERNMENT will in the next few months abolish user fees at all its hospitals as part of efforts to improve universal access to health care facilities, a Cabinet minister has said.
Speaking during a tour of Gweru Provincial Hospital on Wednesday last week, the Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Henry Madzorera, said Government was working on modalities of funding the health sector with the ultimate aim of abolishing hospital user fees.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“By the end of this year, we hope to have done away with the system of user fees in all Government hospitals,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Over the next few months we are planning to abolish user fees on pregnant women and children below the age of five years as a way of reducing infant mortality and improving universal access to health care.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Dr Madzorera said a considerable number of pregnant women was opting to deliver babies at home because of prohibitive hospital costs and, as a result, many lives were being lost.
He said the remaining user fees would be scrapped at a later stage. At present, pregnant women as well as children under the age of five years do not pay consultation fees at hospitals but are charged for treatment.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have to move away from this system and adopt other forms of funding the health sector so that healthcare will become affordable to ordinary Zimbabweans,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Once we have removed user fees on children and pregnant women we will, at a later stage, cover everyone else.Ã¢â‚¬Â The minister called on hospital management and local communities to help his ministry with suggestions on how user fees can be scrapped without affecting the quality of service delivery.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“When a person falls sick they should be assisted without being charged. It is unfair to charge someone who cannot fend for themselves,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is the duty of the leadership at various healthcare facilities and members of the community to come up suggestions on how best we can remove user fees without affecting the quality of service delivery.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Dr Madzorera also condemned reports corruption at Government hospitals.
He was responding to a report by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights claiming employees at State-run health institutions were creating artificial drug shortages in order to sell the drugs at exorbitant prices on the black market.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s deal with corruption for good if ever it exists in our institutions.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“There are reports that nurses and pharmacists at our hospitals are conniving to create shortages of medicine and later sell the medicine on the black market,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“If ever these reports are true then we have to work on our Act and restore peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s confidence in the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s health sector.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He added that Government planned to do away with donor funding in the next two years.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“What we want in the next two years is a decimation of donor funding. As a country, there are other things that we should do on our own and health care delivery is one such thing,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.