PUBLIC hospitals are still detaining hard-pressed mothers for failing to pay maternity fees, despite a government directive ordering the health institutions to stop the detentions.
Staff at government hospitals, including Harare Central, Mpilo and Parirenyatwa said detentions of women over maternity fees continue despite repeated calls by parliamentarians and pronouncements by President Robert Mugabe and Health and Child Care deputy minister Paul Chimedza to stop detaining the patients.
In an effort to force government to ensure that public hospitals stop the detentions, Goromonzi West Zanu PF MP Biata Nyamupinga gave notice on June 2 to move a motion to ensure women are not detained.
According to the National Assembly Order Paper, Nyamupinga’s motion would take note of the deteriorating health services in the country, especially issues to do with maternal health.
In an interview, Nyamupinga, who is also chairperson of the Parliamentary portfolio committee on women’s affairs, gender and community development, said she has been getting phone calls from detained women who have failed to pay hospital fees.
“I normally get calls from women asking for my intervention so they could be released from hospitals for failing to settle the hospital fees,” Nyamupinga said.
“It is a serious issue. I got a call from Harare hospital recently where a woman was detained although she had half of the amount to settle the bill. There is no policy to detain people and this is what we want to deliberate on as government. Women are made to sleep on the floor with their new-born babies.”
In separate interviews, mothers that have negotiated their discharge without payment of maternity user fees said they were receiving threatening messages demanding the money.
Raviro Tshuma was detained at Harare Central Hospital last month for three days and was only discharged after her family raised half of the amount charged.
“When we raised half the funds, the officials threatened not to give us the baby’s birth confirmation record until full payment of the fees. We had to run around and raise the full amount,” she said.
However, Chimedza dismissed the reports of detentions as false.
“We are tired of such reports of people who claim they have been detained each time the hospitals ask them to settle their bills,” Chimedza said.
“Next time you get such a report call me and we will go and meet that person so we can interrogate her together,” he said.'