HomeLocal NewsFree maternity policy faces hitches

Free maternity policy faces hitches

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LOCAL authorities have not effected free maternity services because it was not yet clear how the government plans to pay councils for the services provided, it has emerged.

Report by Feluna Nleya

The government last year issued a circular to all health institutions advising them to stop charging maternity user fees, but the process has been delayed by inadequate funds to finance the project.

The policy has, however, been implemented in rural and district hospitals where maternity fees have since been scrapped after the Ministry of Health received more than $430 million under the Health Transition Fund.

Harare city health director Prosper Chonzi said council could not rush to implement the project without full knowledge of how it would operate.

He said scrapping user fees without a proper plan would cripple operations of council clinics.

“We have not yet effected that in urban areas because the government has not yet finalised with us,” Chonzi said.

“We are still in consultations with the government. The problem is we cannot just scrap maternity user fees as yet at the urban clinics because we will have a deficit on our part and will not be able to cope.

“We still need to be clear on a number of issues, like how many patients the government will cater for. For example, if the government says they will cater for 100 patients, what will happen if we serve 200 patients a month? So these are some of the modalities we are working on, but we are not against the government policy at all.”

Health and Child Welfare deputy minister Douglas Mombeshora said: “We are still working on how best we can work with the local clinics because there are still issues we have to resolve with them.”

Local clinics charge between $25 and $30 as user fees per patient, an amount beyond the reach of many.

The move to scrap maternity user fees is set to reduce maternal deaths in the country.

Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe championed the scrapping of maternity fees and fought many battles with stakeholders, including local authority chiefs, before the government finally made the position to scrap the fees.

Most women were failing to access ante-natal care at public health facilities as they could not afford the maternity fees, forcing them to give birth at home or visit the clinic just before delivery.

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