Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Manicaland Bureau
Manicaland residents have welcomed Government move to scrap medical fees for vulnerable groups as part of measures to ensure accessibility of better healthcare in the country.
Last week, Government announced the scrapping of fees for infants, senior citizens and pregnant women and nursing mothers at State-run hospitals with immediate effect.
Most State-run health facilities have already started implementing the new directive, which has been welcomed by stakeholders in different sectors of the economy.
In an interview with The Herald yesterday, Simukai Child Protection Programme director Mrs Barbara Matsanga said the scrapping of fees was a positive move towards ensuring that vulnerable groups have better lives.
“It has been difficult for vulnerable groups to access medical treatment, so this is a good move. Children, especially street kids were having a torrid time to access medical care, so we hope this is the beginning of an era where everyone can afford to walk into a hospital and receive treatment,” she said.
Mrs Matsanga said Mutare Provincial Hospital has been charging consultation fees of $9 per patient, which is beyond the reach of many child-headed families.
Mrs Matsanga expressed hope that Government would ring-fence the system to ensure that it does not benefit those who can afford only, while leaving out the poor.
She also said Government should consider expanding the initiative into the education sector to ensure that vulnerable children have free access to education.
“In the past, families would prioritise sending the boy child to school at the expense of the girl child.
“They are now finding it difficult to send even the boy child to school. Education should be free so that we secure a bright future for our children,” she said.
Mrs Bridgette Meza, a mother to a three-year-old boy, said the scrapping of medical fees was welcome as it would help reduce infant mortality rates and maternal deaths.
“Growing up, we knew that healthcare was free for these groups, but due to the economic challenges, free healthcare was scrapped. By bringing back the programme, Government will ensure that fewer women die while giving birth and fewer children die before reaching the age of five because they would have failed to access medical treatment,” she said.
She also added her voice to the idea of extending the initiative to other sectors, saying programmes like cervical cancer screening and diabetes testing should be free to ensure that women and girls are safe.
First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa also added her voice yesterday while speaking at a belated Christmas party for orphaned children in Mutare yesterday.
The First Lady said the move would lessen the burden on financially constrained groups.
“Let me take this opportunity to commend Government’s positive and rapid intervention in the social sector through the provision of free access to health care to vulnerable groups.
“The scrapping off of all forms of payment for non-paying groups, which include children under the age of five, all maternal cases and citizens above the age of 65 is a welcome development that will go a long way in easing the burden of these groups who are already constrained by the prevailing economic conditions,” she said.
Most State-run health facilities have already started implementing the new directive, which was welcomed by stakeholders in different sectors of the economy.
The First Lady said pregnant women were important in the society and their welfare should be a priority.
She donated baby supplies to all pregnant women who attended the celebrations at Fairfield Children’s Home and encouraged them to take care of their families and ensure that their children are protected at all times.