Hospital user fees up by 1700 percent

Zimbabweans will now pay USD at prevailing rate to access health care in public facilities which constitute more than 1700% hike in hospital fees.

The review is effective June and only under-fives and citizens over 65 will access healthcare free of charge from all public institutions.

In a circular dated June 1 addressed to Chief Executive Officers, Provincial Medical Directors and Medical Superintendents the Ministry of Health and Child Care Permanent Secretary Air Commodore Jasper Chimedza said the changes are in line with the Auction Exchange rates.

“Reference is made to the hospital user fees circular dated 19 April 2013 and the Exchange Control Exclusive Use of the Zimbabwe Dollar for Domestic Transactions Amendment Regulations, 2020 Number 3 which is the Statutory Instrument 185 of 2020,” said Dr Chimedza.

“Following the release convergence of the Exchange Control Directive number 3 of 2022, in line with the convergence of the Auction Exchange rates and the interbank willing seller willing buyer exchange rate, you are being advised to implement user fees in line with the current interbank rates,” he said.

Mpilo Central Hospital reviewed its prices on Tuesday and has already started implementing the circular.

Consultation for adults now costs US$12 up from $160 while children who were paying $480 will be expected to pay US$6.

Chronic patients will pay US$16 up from $while ward fees will be pegged at US$12 and US$8 for adults and children respectively.

Intensive or coronary care will be US$16 for adults and US$10 for children. Members of the public will pay US$1,5 per kilometre for ambulance services up from $15.

In response to questions Mpilo Chief Executive Officer Professor Solwayo Ngwenya said the institution had simply implemented what was written on the circular.

“We are implementors of government policies, not policy makers. As you can see from the directive from head office in Harare dated 1st June 2022, our finance department has issued a memorandum to implement the directive. This is coming at a critical stage where funding is needed to allow the hospital to offer service delivery to the general population,” said Prof Ngwenya.

“However, with the current economic situation many people will be unable to afford our services and we therefore would kindly ask the policy makers to reconsider the directive or reduce charges to come up with a fee structure that is affordable to the struggling masses. We should remain a compassionate, sensitive, life-saving, strategic, and pro-poor government hospital accessible to the people”.

In a statement the Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) said the new fees structure will inevitably bar access to equitable health care services by the majority of poor people that depend on the public health care system.

“These user fees are not affordable to many, defeating the point of having the right to health in the constitution. The advent of the new Constitution means that the Government as the guarantor must commit to health as a human right and mobilize domestic resources to fund a health benefit that is accessible to all,” said CWGH.

The statement reiterated that health seeking behavior is dependent on a range of factors including availability and affordability of health services.

“We understand that the hospitals are facing severe cash constraints, however we are concerned that the situation at present is one in which the public is not being adequately informed on what exactly to expect at hospitals and thus cannot adequately budget and plan for their visits to these services,” added CWGH.

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