Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
WHILE health experts recommend that pregnant women should seek medical treatment within six weeks, Ms Juliet Rukuni stayed for nearly seven months before she could visit health facilities for a check-up.
Ms Rukuni blamed lack of funds for her failure to register her pregnancy at a health facility.
She said she was finally able to go to the clinic when a friend told her about the Cordaid administered voucher system that has seen pregnant women getting free health services.
Cordaid is an international organisation that implements a results-based financing (RBF) programme aimed at reducing maternal, neonatal and child mortality.
The programme is being rolled out in Bulawayo and Harare following a partnership between Government and World Bank.
Under the programme, pregnant women buy a voucher at a cost of ZW$20 which they use to access services.
Every time they visit a council clinic under the programme, the World Bank’s implementing partner Cordaid pays the health institution for services rendered in foreign currency.
The clinic keeps the forex that is then used to improve its facilities and buy medicines and some of the money is paid to health workers and ambulance crews.
Pregnant women under the programme also benefit from free ambulance services.
Ms Rukuni said despite developing complications that required her to be transferred from Nkulumane Clinic to Mpilo Central Hospital, she did not pay any fees as she and her baby were treated for free.
“Upon learning about the voucher, I decided to come here to register my pregnancy at Nkulumane Clinic although I reside in Pumula South.
I came to the clinic when I was almost seven months pregnant as I didn’t have the money to book my pregnancy at Pumula South Clinic.
After being assessed, I was granted the voucher which enabled me to receive free maternal health care. I was desperate, I didn’t have the money to visit a clinic for check-up as my boyfriend ran away,” said Ms Rukuni.
She said she developed complications and delivered through a Caesarian section.
“I was transferred from Nkulumane Clinic to Mpilo Central Hospital at no cost.
I also didn’t have enough blood and I had a blood fusion again for free,” said Ms Rukuni.
Another beneficiary of the programme, a teenage mother Miss Pride Nkomo (19) from Nketa suburb said she registered her pregnancy at Nketa Clinic where a council social worker assessed her case before referring her to buy a voucher.
“The voucher helped me a lot considering that I didn’t have enough money to cater for preparation as well as necessary hospital fees.
I had just returned from South Africa and I didn’t have money.
I was already becoming a burden to my parents as a lot is required when you are pregnant.
So, the voucher was a big relief for me,” said Miss Nkomo, who delivered her baby at Nkulumane Clinic last Friday.
She said the programme is assisting pregnant women especially teenagers to seek health services early.
Ms Ayanda Muzeza said the programme has enabled her to channel the little funds she has for other home needs.
She said she was able to buy preparation for her baby among other necessities.
Through the programme, clinics are also able to buy medicines for expecting mothers and newborn babies.
Bulawayo Health Services Director Dr Edwin Sibanda said council has been able to upgrade its clinics as well as buy most of the required equipment and consumables as a result of the programme.
Bulawayo City Council (BCC) corporate communications manager Mrs Nesisa Mpofu said the programme is not just assisting women but improving the city’s health facilities.
“It is reducing maternal and infant mortality which was as a result of home deliveries as many pregnant women were no longer affording maternity fees.
Improvement of ambulance infrastructure and equipment will also assist in ensuring a timeous response to emergencies,” said Mrs Mpofu.
She said clinics that are already benefiting from the programme are Nkulumane, Maqhawe, Nketa, Tshabalala, Luveve, Cowdray Park, Emakhandeni and Magwegwe.
Mrs Mpofu said referral hospitals were also benefiting from the programme.
She said 2 427 pregnant women were referred to Mpilo Central Hospital and Lady Rodwell Maternity Hospital at United Bulawayo Hospitals.
Bulawayo Provincial Medical Director Dr Maphious Siamuchembu said the programme is improving access to quality maternal health care for the poor.
“We need women to book early and at the latest within three months of their pregnancy.
This will enable proper monitoring of the pregnancy.
It will also enable us to test if the mother is HIV-positive or not,” he said.
Dr Siamuchembu said through the programme, women now have access to health services for almost free.