Pamela Shumba: Senior Reporter
HEALTH and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa has condemned public health institutions for charging the elderly, children under five and pregnant women hospital fees, saying it is illegal.
Dr Parirenyatwa was responding to Parliamentarians who expressed concerned over exorbitant fees that are being paid by patients at hospitals.
“As the Ministry of Health and Child Care, it is our hope that all people access affordable health care. We have policies that entitle children who are below five years to free medical aid. Women that are pregnant during ante and post natal care, up until they get to six weeks, should not pay for such services and senior citizens who are older than 65 years old should also not pay.
“However, I have observed that in some of the hospitals and clinics, they have what we call a card fee, which is illegal. Our policy is that these groups of people that I have mentioned are entitled to free medical aid. At times, this can’t be done because they require money for drugs,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
He said his ministry also assists patients through the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.
“The public service ministry has an assistance scheme where the vulnerable persons can be given a voucher which they can use to access medical care.
“Payment is difficult. We would want to ensure that the Ministry of Health receives a large chunk of the budget so as to enable us to meet our running costs,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
Member of House of Assembly for St Mary’s constituency Mr Martin Tarusenga asked Dr Parirenyatwa what the ministry was doing to cater for thousands of unemployed people in the country.
“You have talked about children that are below five years and those who are above 65 years that they are entitled to free medical care. The issue is in line with the age groups that you have left out.
“This is the working class and our unemployment rate is above 80 percent. So, my question is that the unemployed people have no money to access medical care. As the Government, what are we doing to ensure that they have reasonable medical care?” said Mr Tarusenga.
Dr Parirenyatwa said those that are unemployed are the ones who should be helped by the Department of Social Welfare if they are in dire-straits.
“The department is housed in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. You can be referred at each and every hospital to the department of social welfare,” said the minister.
He added that it was important for the ministry to receive adequate funding to enable hospitals to have drugs in stock so that patients are not stranded.
“Some basic medication should be readily available once a prescription has been made by a doctor. We are having challenges in that regard. It is our plea that this August House should be constantly clamouring for the Ministry of Health and Child Care’s budget to be bigger,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.