Fidelis Munyoro and Tendai Rupapa
HARARE City Council’s closure of clinics that serve as birth centres, have caused untold suffering to pregnant women, some of whom lose their babies, has brought untold suffering to health-seeking residents in the capital.
The clinics, which are located in various suburbs and offer primary health care to the majority of residents who are unable to afford prohibitive charges at private health institutions, were closed due to lack of Covid-19 related resources, including failure to provide health care workers with personal protective equipment (PPE).
Most council clinics health care workers are refusing to go to work until sufficient PPE is available and their condition in terms of salaries and working hours are addressed.
This has subjected thousands of expecting women, mothers and their babies at great risk as they are failing to access delivery, antenatal and postnatal services.
Two women — Melody Mapani and Aurage Katumbe who are residents of Mabvuku and Kambuzuma respectively — lost their babies after they failed to access childbirth care in their respective locations.
This emerged in the urgent High Court application filed by the Combined Greater Harare Residents, Ratepayers and Tenants Association seeking to compel Harare to open all its 42 clinics, which were closed to reduce the spread of the lethal virus that has affected thousands of people and claimed over 220 lives in the country.
The association, Mapani and Katumbe, who are listed as applicants in the matter have cited Harare, Local Government and Public Works, Health and Child Care and Finance and Economic Development ministers as respondents. They want an order compelling Harare to open all its 42 clinics dotted around the capital to the public by October 1.
“Before all the clinics are opened, the association wants the council to ensure that there are enough clinics open to offer emergency medical treatment including the pregnant women,” read part of the draft order sought.
“If need be and upon written request from first respondent (city council), the fourth respondent (Finance Minister) shall without any delay provide the necessary funds to implement the measures above.” According to the court papers, the association claimed to have received numerous reports of residents being turned away at the few clinics that are open and supposed to attend to emergency cases.
In the case of Mapani, it alleged that she was pregnant and registered at Mabvuku Polyclinic.
When she was due for delivery sometime in July, she went to clinic, but was turned away because it had closed. It is alleged that she then went to a clinic in Goromonzi.
Upon arrival at the rural clinic, it was discovered that her blood pressure was high and was rushed to Marondera Hospital, where she was admitted and later had a stillbirth.
Katumbe was due to deliver at Kambuzuma polyclinic on July 22, but was also turned away despite the fact that she was already in labour.
“She then hired a taxi to go to Mufakose Polyclinic where she was allegedly extorted money by midwives to get service,” stated the association.
In their application, the association also claimed that the Minister of Local Government and Public Works has failed to ensure that council was equipped to function effectively during this period. As for the Health Ministry, it is being accused of failing to complement council efforts in addressing the health crisis. The respondents are yet to file their response to the application.
In another related story, an engineering company has taken Harare City Council to Court, claiming over US$7 million for work done in the rehabilitation of the council’s two sewer reticulation systems at Firle and Crowborough.
Cemo Pumps was sub-contracted by a company called Sidal engineering Pvt Ltd and in so doing, the two firms carried out several works at Firle and Crowborough sewage works for City of Harare.
Payments were done through Sidal Engineering while some payments were made directly from Harare City Council.
In its claim, the company is suing Harare City Council and Sidal Engineering for breach of contract.
Part of the order sought read; “The respondents jointly and severally, the one paying the other to be absolved is ordered to pay the sum of US$7 622 535.15. Respondents, jointly and severally, the one paying the other to be absolved, is ordered to pay interest at the prescribed rate on the amount above from the 14th of May 2019 to date of full and final payment.”
Acting on behalf of Cemo Pumps, Harold Crown who is the group chairman, in his founding affidavit stated that his company engaged Harare City Council with a view to get the amount due to it settled.
On March 29 last year, council then wrote to Cemo Pumps requesting a reconciliation of the outstanding payment, which they were given.
“The reconciliation, however did not take into account works done, but not invoiced which amount to US$2 204 243.21. This brings the total liability to US$7 622 535.15,” read part of the affidavit.
The respondents are yet to respond to the claim.