By Albert Nxumalo
A Bulawayo councillor has suggested that pregnant women who intend to deliver at council clinics but fail to book should be fined, with a senior official saying there was a lot of relaxation by expecting mothers to register on time.
Late last year, council hiked maternity fees which saw expecting mothers paying $361.52 up from $30.
Some expecting mothers are said to be turning up at clinics for delivery without prior bookings and having no records of pregnancies which are key in assessing their conditions in case of complications.
According to a latest council report tabled last week during a full monthly meeting, ward 10 Councillor Sinikiwe Mutanda is quoted suggesting that a fine be imposed on expecting mothers who fail to book at maternity clinics.
“Councillor Sinikiwe Mutanda raised concern about pregnant mothers who did not do the necessary bookings at Council maternity clinics.
“Her view was that a fine be introduced to such mothers once they came for delivery,” reads in part a Health, Housing and Education committee report.
Based on the report, a decrease has been noted in Antenatal care (ANC) bookings and deliveries.
“A decrease was noted in ANC bookings and deliveries in March 2020. This could be attributed to the increase of user fees in clinics,” read a section of the report.
“The number of babies born before arrival increased by 53%,” the report recorded.
Director of Health Services Dr Edwin Sibanda said while primary health care was offered on behalf of central government there was a lot of relaxation by pregnant mothers to book on time.
Government was pushing for a free maternity service nationwide, he said.
“There was a lot of relaxation by pregnant mothers to book on time. A pregnant woman was supposed to be examined 8 times before delivery. The ability to pay was not the hindering factor. In most cases lack of planning was the main cause,” Dr Sibanda reportedly said.
However, ward 17 councillor Sikhululekile Moyo objected to the suggestion saying residents’ disposable income was eroded which is a reflection of the economic situation currently bedevilling the country.
“Most residents had financial challenges. She also wanted to know if (it) was allowed for a pregnant mother who booked elsewhere to deliver at a Council clinic using documents from the institution she booked with?” reads the report.
Contributing to the debate, the chairperson of the committee, councillor Lillian Mlilo raised concern about customer care at Pelandaba Clinic.
According to the report, Mlilo claimed that at Pelandaba clinic, patients were ill-treated after being “dropped outside the clinic gate and expecting mothers made to carry their heavy preparation bags”.
Dr Sibanda said the matter would be investigated.
Meanwhile, council has expressed concern on a drop in the number of people starting tuberculosis treatment.
“There was a drastic decrease in the number of patients that commenced TB treatment in April 2020. There is a danger of tuberculosis not being put on the agenda due to the Covid-19 lockdown”.