HomeLocal NewsFunding mechanisms inject life into maternal health services

Funding mechanisms inject life into maternal health services

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IRENE Mateya (33) is one of the few expectant mothers housed at Bvukururu Health Centre — a maternity waiting shelter on the outskirts of rural Zaka.

BY PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI

Mateya is expecting her second child, who will be a beneficiary of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef)’s funding lifeline to health institutions under the Health Transition Fund (HTF).

Mateya says a number of changes have taken place at the maternity centre as a result of the funding from Unicef compared to the last time she gave birth to her first baby.

“The changes are unbelievable,” she told NewsDay recently. “We now receive medication and the diet is much better.”

Mavis Magura (22), from Masunda Village in Bikita, 10km away from the clinic, concurred expectant mothers are now living comfortably at the waiting shelter.

“We are living well,” Magura, who is expecting her second child, said: “There is adequate food supplied by the clinic. When the food that we bring from home runs out, the clinic replenishes our supplies.”

The health centre can now offer critical maternal services needed by expectant mothers.

The Unicef fund has contributed immensely to building the capacity of health institutions. This has seen a marked decrease in maternal mortality rates from 960 to 614 deaths per 100 000 live births between 2011 and 2014, according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (2014).

Three-quarters of the deaths, mostly caused by excessive bleeding, infections, pregnancy-related hypertension and malaria, are preventable.

Before the Unicef fund was availed, most health institutions particularly in the rural areas were not able to purchase critical equipment and medications.

Familiar Zendera, the nurse-in-charge at Bvukururu Health Centre, said the health facility, which attends to over 1 000 patients from Bikita and Zaka per month, is receiving funding in quarterly batches of between $2 250 and $3 000.

“The challenge was that we could not offer specialised services such as testing sugar in the blood as well as urine tests for expectant mothers and other patients,” she said. “We were forced to take the samples to Ndanga and Musiso district hospitals.”

Bvukururu Health Centre has a capacity to accommodate 15 expectant mothers at a time.

Vincent Chimombe (74), the clinic’s Health Centre Committee (HCC) chairperson, said the HTF has lessened the burden of caring for expectant mothers.

Chimombe said before the disbursement of the HTF, the clinic could not hire extra hands to render specialised services.

The HCC was set up in 2013 to run the health centres projects after recommendations by the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

Bvukururu Health Centre

“The boarding facilities at the clinic for expectant mothers have also improved and we now have tapped water,” he said.

A nurse at the clinic, Miriam Themba, said the HTF ended last year. The centre has since received a new lifeline through the Results-Based Financing (RBF) programme.

“The money comes on a quarterly basis and in January we received $942,” she said.

“We are happy with RBF because we have seen that it has increased the staff’s work rate. It also provides for incentives leading to quality work.”

Themba said they met their targets and are expecting to receive an allocation of $3 000 in the next quarter.

Zaka district medical officer Morgen Muzondo said before the implementation of HTF and RBF most health centres run by rural district councils charged patients for treatment.

“The idea was for the council to plough back to the clinics so they could procure medicines, but most of the time the money was misappropriated,” he said.

“We started with RBF in the second quarter of 2014, but no assessment was done. In the third and fourth quarter we got well over $2,2 million from HTF and are now doing more outreaches and deliveries than referrals,” Dr Muzondo said. “Our staff is more motivated. They know key indicators. If they know that a clinic got $5 000 and another $4 000, they work harder.

Muzondo said the HTF had come in handy, but they would be glad if the more money could be allocated.

Another nurse at the clinic, Anna Musana, told NewsDay that the clinic started receiving funds under the RBF in 2012 with an initial sum of $12 000.

“Services have improved significantly,” she said. “Our labour ward did not have enough medicines, a suction machine and blood pressure kits. We have also been able to build a waiting shelter for expectant mothers using the money.”

Musana said in the past, there were many home deliveries because there was no waiting shelter. The new shelter accommodates an average of 25 expectant mothers a month.

The clinic, which covers a catchment area with a population of 17 775, records between 27 and 29 births a month.

“We are happy that expectant mothers are getting quality services with no dangers and complications that lead to maternal and neo-natal deaths,” Musana said.

“We experience very few complications, which we refer to district hospitals.”

Masvingo provincial medical director Robert Mudyirandima said for many years they had experienced challenges financing the health services sector.

Mudyirandima was happy that the HTF and RBF provided an alternative financing model, which had seen an improvement in the collection and recording of maternal health data.

Managed by Unicef, the HTF saw a group of donors injecting $435 million into Zimbabwe’s health system between 2011 and 2015.

The money goes towards improving maternal and child health and nutrition, purchasing essential medicines, vaccines and equipment.

Some of the money is used for human resource development, health policy formulation and financial planning.

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