GOVERNMENT’s recent move to scrap off user fees for blood should be commended, as the life-saving resource had been priced beyond the rich of the country’s majority poor citizens.
Health minister David Parirenyatwa recently disclosed that blood would be available for free in all public hospitals beginning July 1, as part of government’s new national health financing policy and strategy.
While we applaud Parirenyatwa for finally smelling the coffee and doing the right thing, we believe he should have done that long back and avoided unnecessary loss of lives.
In the past, patients in need of additional blood transfusions — particularly accident victims and pregnant women — would be required to bring their own supplies to the health institution or pay through the nose at health centres to get their blood bags.
The situation was very dire given that nearly all pregnant women require blood transfusion during child birth. Zimbabwe annually records close to half a million births and there often is excessive blood loss which requires transfusion of an average of three pints.
Timely blood transfusion prevents maternal deaths, which are still high, with over 500 women dying per every 100 000 live births.
A pint of blood was initially pegged at $135, before it was reduced to $80 a pint and, subsequently, to $50. This, however, was still pricey for the majority of citizens who are living below the poverty datum line. Against such a grim backdrop, it is commendable that people can now access the precious commodity for free.
According to Parirenyatwa, government has so far raised about
$20 million through the Health Levy Fund raised through taxing airtime users.
We would urge the government to ensure proper administration of the fund, and avoid its abuse like has happened to other taxpayers’ money.
It is an open secret that the country’s health system has been sick for a very long time and whatever critical interventions can be made should be done.
We also urge government to speedly move to ensure the health sector gets 15% of the national budget in line with the Abuja Declaration. A healthy nation is a strong nation.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa should also play ball on the matter.