‘Govt hospitals face crippling financial challenges’

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PUBLIC hospitals throughout the country are facing crippling financial challenges due to lack of support from Treasury, at a time they are also owed more than $130 million by various debtors.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

Health-secretary-Gerald-Gwinji-1

Health and Child Care permanent secretary Gerald Gwinji told legislators attending a health financing workshop in Harare yesterday that the situation had remained the same since last year, forcing a marked drop in service delivery.

“All institutions submitted their financial accounts for 2015 on time. However, our institutions are facing difficult challenges as money from the fiscus is not coming and the debtors are not paying,” he said.

“Provincial hospitals are owed $23 600 311,87, while central hospitals are owed $110 913 508,76 from 2015.”

The Health ministry was allocated $330 789 000 in the 2016 National Budget, but had only received $104 538 895 by March 31 this year, he said.

The legislators heard that the bulk of the the ministry’s budget — $281 million — was gobbled by salaries.

Gwinji said during the first quarter of 2016, donors disbursed $12 878 333 million in support of different health programmes, particularly communicable diseases, but non-communicable diseases were rarely or not funded by donors.

Community Working Group of Health programmes officer Esther Sharara said Zimbabwe still lagged behind in terms of health funding in line with the Abuja Declaration on health.

The Health ministry only received a 7,5% allocation in 2016 instead of the recommended 15% vote of the total national budget.

“We are worried that almost 100% of health programmes are funded through donors and what is coming to the Health ministry from the budget only goes to salaries. We are saying there is need to look at other innovative ways for domestic financing of health programme,” she said.

“People on HIV treatment are donor-funded, but what are we going to do as a country if the donors stop funding? Over-reliance on donors is putting ourselves in an awkward situation.”

Speaking at the same event, Labour and Economic Research Institute of Zimbabwe senior economist Prosper Chitambara said Zimbabwe was only spending as little as $120 annually on health financing per person, compared to South Africa’s $680 annual budget per person and Australia’s $3 455.

He said in order to harness more resources for health financing, there was need to mobilise the informal sector and think of alternative tax reforms to mobilise resources to finance public health care.