Harare City Council has raised maternity charges to ZW$120, up from ZW$25 while consultation fees will now be pegged at ZW$50.
The development is likely to deter many women from accessing better hospitals and may increase already high maternal deaths. Recent reports suggest that several women die whilst giving birth as some choose to give birth at home or religious centres.
The local authority recently approved a supplementary budget of ZW$483 million of which ZW$14.6 million is expected to come from the health sector.
The development also contradicts with the government’s policy on maternity which provides for user free maternity. Most, if not all, local authorities have been failing to implement the policy due to insufficiency of financial, human, technical and several other resources required.
Health stakeholders have expressed concern over the move arguing that it will reverse the progress made towards reducing maternal deaths. Fungisayi Dube of the Citizens Health Watch said:
I think the price increase goes against the spirit of reducing maternal mortality and we run the risk of frustrating the gains made this far in fighting maternal mortality. Cost remains a major deterrent in accessing health services, especially maternal health services.
Recently, president Mnangagwa confessed the government’s concern over maternal deaths which he said could be reduced through skills training for midwives and doctors as well as through supplying essential medical equipment.
Meanwhile, HCC spokesperson, Michael Chideme, said that it was not an increase, but an adjustment to the interbank rate.
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