HUMAN rights organisations have criticised the detention of mothers and newly-born babies at hospitals over non-payment of maternity fees, saying this was a breach of their rights.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights senior projects manager Dzimbabwe Chimbga told the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Human Rights on Wednesday that his organisation has represented several women detained at institutions such as Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo for failure to pay maternal service fees.
“Government must have a clear policy on how human rights must be upheld, for example, the right to health because there is a policy that when mothers give birth they should not be asked to pay fees, but at public hospitals we have represented people at large hospitals like Mpilo and Harare Central Hospital where mothers are detained after failing to pay,” Chimbga said.
“We have cases of mothers who have given birth at doorsteps of hospitals because they have been denied access.”
Legislators in both Houses of Parliament have often questioned Health minister David Parirenyatwa over the issue, and the answer has constantly been that government policy is that they should not be detained, but a payment plan must be worked out.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) yesterday also complained of an incident where a private maternity hospital in Harare detained a woman and a four-day-old baby delivered through an emergency caesarean.
The woman was released several hours later after the intervention of ZimRights.
“The patient was failing to immediately settle in cash a $300 shortfall on her health cover. The hospital on the western side of Harare turned down her initial offer for a payment plan, leading to an unfortunate impasse that violated the new mother’s constitutional right to liberty,” ZimRights said.
Section 49 of the Constitution outlaws the imprisonment of citizens merely on the grounds of inability to fulfil contractual obligations.
According to ZimRights, the woman, only identified as Nonsikelelo, was supposed to give birth at Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo next month where she was booked. But she had to be ferried to Harare due to complications, where she had to undergo an immediate caesarean operation after developing high blood pressure which threatened her life.