Relief as Parly orders scrapping of maternity user fees

THERE was relief yesterday at Edith Opperman Maternity Hospital in Mbare after the Women and Youth Portfolio Committee chairperson, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga ordered clinic officials to issue birth records to children who did not have $10 user fees.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

Misihairabwi-Mushonga whose committee has been going around the country, gathering evidence on maternal health, family planning and compliance by maternity hospitals to provide free contraceptive and maternal care for women was dismayed by the hospital’s lack of adherence to the government directive that babies and their mothers need to be treated for free.

During the public hearings at Edith Opperman, one of the affected women, Doreen Murwira (pictured), narrated her plight, saying she was being denied birth records for her two children because she owed the clinic $35.

“In 2010, when I gave birth I was ordered to sleep on the floor because of the $35 debt and birth records for my child was withheld,” Murwira said.

Most women who contributed during the public hearings also told MPs that they were ill-treated by nurses whenever they sought maternal and family planning services.

Charles Kautare told the committee that women were ill-treated while giving birth.

“When women who do not have money to pay for family planning services and they bring up the point that government issued a directive that maternal user fees and treatment for under five-year-old children is free, the nurses tell the women to go and get help from those who gave the directive,” Kautare said.

Unimpressed by the ill-treatment, Misihairabwi-Mushonga ordered the administrators at Edith Opperman to comply with the government directive and as a result, Murwira and several other women and their babies ended up getting their birth records without paying anything.

At Mbuya Nehanda Maternity Hospital, affiliated to Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, sister-in-charge of family planning, Saliet Kapanda said they were complying with the directive.

Misihairabwi-Mushonga said: “At other provinces, which the committee visited the policy is not being implemented and women and babies are paying user fees. For example, Pelandaba Maternity Hospital in Bulawayo charges $30 maternal fees, but Mpilo [Central] Hospital does not charge. As a result there was flooding at Mpilo as women sought free treatment to the extent that some pregnant mothers were sleeping on the floor. Zvishavane was the worst in terms of detaining mothers and their babies for failure to pay and withholding birth records.”