Outcry over fees at council maternity wings. . .Private doctors charge $250 up from $30

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SOME Bulawayo City Council (BCC) clinics’ maternity wings are now run by private doctors who are charging up to $250, more than eight times the usual $30 council fees, resulting in expecting mothers overcrowding Mpilo Central Hospital which offers free maternity service.

Residents said clinics in Tshabalala, Pumula South and Mzilikazi suburbs have their maternity wings run by private doctors who are charging varying fees between $100 and $250.

This emerged during a female residents meeting organised by the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) in partnership with the Women’s Institute of Leadership Development (WILD) meant to discuss how BCC service delivery affects women.

The BCC Gender Focal Person Mrs Audrey Manyemwe represented the council while residents had representatives from all 29 wards.

However, council’s senior spokesperson Mrs Nesisa Mpofu said only two clinics had been leased out to private doctors.

“There are four maternity centres provided by the City of Bulawayo namely Luveve; Nkulumane; Pelandaba and Northern Suburbs,” said Mrs Mpofu.

“Two clinics Tshabalala and Pumula South have their maternity wings rented out. Two doctors who are not council employees lease these facilities simply because the council is not able to run these facilities due to staff shortages.”

She said council is running at an average of 62 percent of the staff establishment.

“An employment/recruitment freeze effective 2010 has seen staff that left since then not being replaced. As highlighted above due to staff shortages, we are unable to run these facilities. When the recruitment freeze is lifted we hope to fill the vacancies and possibly re-open these centres,” said Mrs Mpofu.

Speaking at the meeting, BPRA vice chairperson Ms Ntombizodwa Khumalo said women are forced to go to Mpilo Central Hospital which is already congested.

“If you go to these council clinics today, you will find that the maternity ward is now under a private doctor. These doctors are not BCC workers and we are not sure how they got employed there. They charge high prices which ordinary women cannot afford. At Tshabalala Clinic, the doctor charges $250 ante-natal booking fee,” she said.

Ms Khumalo said there are cases of some women who end up giving birth at their homes which puts their lives at risk.

“There is a high risk if someone gives birth at home because she has no option. Firstly, that pressure of going to a clinic and you are told you cannot afford the service can cause high blood pressure. Also there are some complications that need the attention of a doctor,” she said.

In separate interviews at the sidelines of the meeting, Ms Pretty Ndlovu from Pumula South said the maternity ward is now meant for the elite at the expense of ordinary residents.

Nesisa Mpofu

“Council clinics are meant for the people but now they are affordable to those with money. Sometimes we go to Pelandaba and Nkulumane but it’s a strain, especially when a mother is at a critical stage. We ask BCC to bring back our council maternity wings,” she said.

Another resident, Mrs Brilliant Sibanda from Mzilikazi suburb said: “Some pregnant women do not have transport money and they walk to Northend to get maternity services which puts their life at risk .Our plea is for the city fathers to bring back the council maternity ward.”

In response, Mrs Manyemwe said the city fathers have cut some services at clinics due to economic constraints.

In an interview, Mpilo Central Hospital acting Clinical Director Dr Xolani Ndlovu said ever since some council clinics privatised their maternity wings, there have been an overwhelming number of mothers coming to the hospital to deliver.“Ideally hospitals are meant to attend referred complicated cases from clinics but nowadays mothers are coming straight from their homes. However we are not allowed to turn patients away,” he said.

Dr Moyo said the staffing levels had not increased and the wards had not expanded to cater for the overwhelming number of women.

“This will ultimately compromise services because the staff will be exhausted from handling so many women,” he said-

Source: The Chronicle

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