Government is in the process of taking over all health facilities owned by local authorities as part of a grand plan to ensure standardised service delivery as envisaged by the National Development Strategy 1, Parliament heard yesterday.
Vice President Constantino Chiwenga told legislators that most health facilities owned by local authorities were charging pregnant women and juveniles under five user fees in defiance of a standing health policy.
VP Chiwenga, who is also the Minister of Health and Child Care said his Ministry was in the process of recruiting provincial medical directors for Harare and Bulawayo.
He said this in the National Assembly while responding to a motion moved by Bulawayo Proportional Representation legislator Dr Thokozani Khupe who bemoaned the continued charging of user fees by health centres despite a Government policy against that.
The Vice President said health facilities were supposed to help pregnant women deliver for free before submitting their claims to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development for reimbursement.
“To ensure implementation of National Development Strategy 1 on health and well-being, the Ministry of Health and Child Care is in the process of absorbing into the mainstream, all local authorities health delivery platforms which include clinics, polyclinics, rural hospitals and infectious disease hospitals.
“In this regard, the Ministry is in the process of filling the gaps of provincial medical directors for Harare and Bulawayo Metropolitan provinces reporting directly to the Ministry.
“This will standardise the provision of health service delivery among other things addressing both the welfare of health workers and Government user fee position,” said VP Chiwenga.
He said PMDs would be focal persons working with Ministers of State for Provinces and the Provincial Development Coordinator to push the devolution agenda.
He said the Ministry had just crafted the Health Development Strategy for 2021 to 2025 which would ensure equitable health delivery to everyone
VP Chiwenga chronicled the historical background regarding the policy on no user fee and noted that while Government had directed that there should be no user fees in district rural clinics, they were charging card, consultation, drug, security and development fees among others.
It was also noted that some health facilities were also demanding non monetary charges in the form of commodities such as maize, chicken and goats for services given to pregnant women.
Other health facilities were requesting items that were not related to health services such as baby towels, sheets and diapers among other things.
The Vice President said the charging of user fees had created a huge burden to nearest health facilities that were not charging.
“The Ministry is aware of the effect of health facilities continuing to charge user fees in contravention of the exemption policy not to charge user fees. There is decreased use of services by those members of the community that are not able to afford the user related fees.
“There is overburden of the nearby facility that might offer the services for free as people move from the charging facility and this has been the case especially in Harare,” he said.
VP Chiwenga said other effects were that people delayed looking for help while there was also general non-compliance with treatment as patients would end up sharing medication or engaging in self-medication.
This created a risk for patients purchasing unregistered and unapproved medicines from the black market.
Meanwhile, Parliament has with immediate effect, suspended all public hearings and field visits in compliance with Covid-19 containment measures that were announced by President Mnangagwa on Tuesday.
Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda said all meetings would now have to be conducted on virtual platforms.
Adv Mudenda said this while addressing the National Assembly yesterday.
VP Chiwenga weighed in saying while Parliament was regarded as an essential service provider that would continue carrying out important business, it would have to do so in compliance with health protocols.
He said Parliamentarians also had a duty to advise people in their constituencies on the importance of vaccination against Covid-19