Ivan Zhakata Herald Correspondent
City of Harare health workers are allegedly extorting money from pregnant women by charging an extra US$25 to US$40 to access maternity services, with reports centring on staff at Mufakose, Highfield, Mabvuku and Dzivarasekwa poly clinics.
Residents said situation has been further worsened by the weak and dysfunctional complaint mechanism system that involves perpetrators of corruption as the complaint authority since some of the sisters-in-charge for some clinics are being fingered in the corruption.
The residents through the Combined Harare Residents Association have called upon the Harare City Council to act decisively, stop harbouring and nurturing extortion practices by health personnel in council clinics who take advantage of desperate pregnant women seeking maternal health services.
“We are reliably informed and have received reports from Mabvuku, Highfield and Mufakose polyclinics of health personnel who are arm twisting women in labor to pay a personal extra maternal fee (chebasa) in forex ranging between US$25 to US$40 in return for safe deliveries,” some of the residents said. Some pregnant women who are not able to pay the bribe are threatened with not receiving medical attention or referred to Mbuya Nehanda or Sally Mugabe Maternal hospitals.
“We bemoan that some pregnant women who cannot make payments in forex are being neglected or not served, while those who have foreign currency are receipted in local currency as health personnel use their bank cards to make payments into the council accounts and they keep the US dollars.
“We reiterate that maternal health is a human right protected under section 76 (1) of the Zimbabwe Constitution and denying women maternal health services is a serious gross human rights violation.
“We would like to warn City Health personnel in council clinics that any further negligence when offering maternal health services will attract litigation targeting both the personnel involved and also the City of Harare as an entity.”
The residents are demanding urgent interventions from the local authority to curb the acts of corruption that have allegedly crippled municipal maternal health service provision in Harare.
Council spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme said council clinics were not allowed to charge in foreign currency and they have since launched a probe into the allegations.