Parliament demands clarity on maternity user fees

MDC Matabeleland South legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga

PARLIAMENTARIANS have called on the Government to be clear on the maternity user fees policy and support women’s health.

The policy states that expecting mothers should not pay anything at hospitals but they are made to pay up to $100 for deliveries.

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women and Youth Affairs and Matabeleland South MP, Mrs Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, expressed concern over the confusion surrounding the Government’s maternity user fees policy.

The committee was in Bulawayo on Monday and held public hearings on health effects of hormonal contraceptives to women and Government’s adherence to the user fees policy in hospitals.

They met women at Mpilo Central Hospital, United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH), Pelandaba and North End clinics to discuss issues on reproductive health and the user fees policy.

Participants at the hearings told the committee that expecting mothers pay $30 for registration at clinics and $50 at hospitals, while they are also asked to buy other necessities such as spirit, gloves, drips, cotton wool and injections among others before they give birth.

The ambulance fee is pegged at $20.

Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga said it was sad that the situation on the ground was different from the Government’s position.

“The biggest issue of concern is that women have no idea about the user fees policy. As far as they are concerned, women should still be paying. This disconnection between what the Government is saying and what the health institutions are saying is a cause for concern.

“Women have to be told that they don’t have to pay. From the discussions we had with them, they’re shocked that there’s a maternity user fee policy,” said Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga.

She said at Mpilo Hospital, the management acknowledged that Government had communicated the policy but the hospital was forced to make expecting mothers pay because Government was not adequately supporting them financially to offer the required services.

“Clearly, the Government has to be open about this policy and support women’s health. We can’t be doing politics at the expense of women’s health.

“Lack of consistency in policies, lack of information and lack of policy co-ordination between Government and local authorities is a serious issue that must be addressed,” said Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga.

She added that the issue has to be discussed in Parliament and Government has to rectify its position and come out clear.

Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga also condemned the detention of new mothers at hospitals over debts and the confiscation of birth records.

“We’re also upset about issues of birth records. Right now we’re going into an election period and one of the biggest problems we have is the issue around birth certificates. We expect people to vote during elections and they should have the adequate identity particulars.

“It’s therefore ridiculous to deny children birth records and birth certificates just because their mothers have failed to pay user fees that should not even be paid,” she said.

The committee held more public hearings at health institutions in Gwanda on Tuesday, before they proceed to other areas around the country.