Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe has urged government to scrap maternity fees to curb incidents of maternal mortality related to shortage of money.
Khupe told delegates during a tour of Sipepa Hospital last Friday that government should be obliged to subsidise maternity fees, saying childbearing was a national duty.
“The maternity fees should be scrapped as most women don’t have money. Why are women being punished for doing a national duty? We are giving birth to future presidents, prime ministers and doctors,” said Khupe.
Khupe said Zimbabwe has one of the highest maternal mortality rates, saying at least eight women died every day while giving birth in Zimbabwe.
This, she said, translated to a maternal mortality ratio of 725 deaths per 100 000 live births and said this should be reduced by 75% by the year 2015.
Khupe said high maternity fees were discouraging rural women from getting access to pre-natal care resulting in pregnancy complications not detected much earlier.
Sipepa Hospital was built as a district referral hospital in 1941 but has since been downgraded.
Hospital staff told Khupe that they shared one toilet with patients.
Khupe said deplorable conditions at most health institutions, coupled with low pay, de-motivated staff.
“Nurses are reporting for duty reluctantly as working conditions are not conducive but government is trying all means to pay better salaries,” said Khupe.
Meanwhile, Khupe heard that equipment worth thousands of dollars, including a generator with a capacity to power 66 households, was lying idle at the hospital, 12 years after delivery.
The hospital’s mortuary was also not refrigerated.
Constituency MP Samuel Sipepa-Nkomo told Khupe the generator was delivered by the government to the hospital 12 years ago.
“Surprisingly after 12 years the generator has not been switched on and this is affecting operations at the clinic. Same applies to the stoves at the kitchen and it would mean that government wasted money,” said Sipepa-Nkomo.