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Residents decry high cost of health care at council clinics

Residents in Bulawayo’s Ward 13, Iminyela Suburb, have raised concerns over the increased fees at council clinic fees, bemoaning the fact that most people would fail to access primary health care.

The residents said it would not be suprising for people to ‘die in their homes,’ as they could not afford the high costs.

Government recently approved the Bulawayo City Council’s 2020 budget of ZWL$ 2 779 412 294, which saw rates increase by 416 percent .

The increase also affected clinic fees, whose new charges are as follows: Adults will fork out ZWL$96.41 for consultation while children are to pay ZWL$72.30.

A doctor’s consultation fee for adults  is now ZWL$421.77 while for children it will be ZWL$96.41. 

Martenity fees start from ZWL$361. 52, Dressing – ZWL$24.10,  Suturing – ZWL$48.20, Removal of suturing – ZWL$25.10, RBS – ZWL$48.20, Search fee – ZWL$48.20 and school forms will cost ZWL$60.25.

Speaking at a round table series Friday in Iminyela, women lamented that the increased rates were too costly considering they were drowning in poverty.

Residents at Iminyela are next to Phelandaba clinic.

“Most people will die in their homes due to failure to access health care. We cannot afford the ZWL$96 consultation fee required in clinics. Most of us who live in this community are unemployed. The increase is just to steep from ZWL$15,” said one Masuku.

“Clinics will also chase us away if we go there with less money, so one wonders how we will access health care.”

Masuku noted women would be the major victims of lack of health care, as maternity fees were also high.

“Due to the accommodation crisis we see here in Iminyela, our children are staying with us, some who are pregnant but where will they source ZWL$361 for maternal fees, worse as we all are unemployed. Surely our children will die for not accessing ante-natal care,” she said. 

Residents also complained that some people had been mistreated by clinical staff.

“We have a crisis as women, as we are mistreated in these clinics. May the local authority look into this issue,” Masuku urged.

Ward 13 Councillor, Frank Javangwe, acknowledged that due to the economy, the local authority had to budget accordingly hence the increases.

“When the local authority approved the 2020 budget, it meant charges had to increase, which is why all council facilities went up. However, children under the age of five still do not pay anything including senior residents from 65 years,” said Cllr Javangwe.

He admitted that council had challenge of staffing, as nurses relocated elsewhere due to the economic crisis.

“Staff at the council clinics are understaffed and have pressure, which is why sometime residents end up complaing of mistreatment,” said Cllr Javangwe.

In addition, Bulawayo City Council’s (BCC) Gender Focal Person, Audrey Manyemwe said Zimbabwe’s economic situation has contributed to increase of clinic fees.

She also encouraged residents to report issues of mistreatment so that it could be addressed with the individuals in question.

“In 2019, the council had a project of training sub-members to deal with mistreatment claims but when you are mistreated by any council staffer, please report to your councillor. Do not keep quiet or better yet call the council call center. Yes, the situation may be bad but there are better ways of dealing with such problems,” said Manyemwe.

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