Malawi gov’t rolls out paying section in public hospitals

Government has proceeded with its plans of establishing paying sections in all its major hospitals in the country to despite President Joyce Banda challenge that she will not accept the initiative.

Last month, government disclosed that will, from September 1st, establish paying sections in major hospitals to enable them fundraise independently, thereby boosting their financial muscles.

But the move was shot-down by Banda who argued that paying of health services in public hospitals will hurt poor Malawians who live below the poverty level and cannot afford it.

Banda said only private and mission hospitals were the ones that offer paying services but not those that are funded by government.

Chimbali: Paying section for those that can afford to pay, the free services still continue
Chimbali: Paying section for those that can afford to pay, the free services still continue

However, Nyasa Times has established that government has gone ahead with the plan and Ministry of Health has confirmed.

Although the plan was only earmarked for Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in the Capital city of Lilongwe and Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in commercial city of Blantyre, the ministry revealed that it has been extended to district hospitals as well.

Ministry of Health spokesperson, Henry Chimbali said in an interview that under the paying sections, almost all the services were to be paid for.

Chimbali was quick to, however, point out that the initiative was not new in country’s major public hospitals as it has just been revamped.

He said: “Payment of services has been there for a long time and has just been revamped. This is not new and as a Ministry, we are aware of this development”.

He however, blushed off fears that such system would compromise service delivery in non-paying sections, saying the program would give people a choice to either pay or not.

“We will strive that all services will be of the same quality whether paying or non-paying. With the current guidelines on this arrangement, we are hopeful services will improve and other challenges will be addressed with the revenue generated through this paying services section”.

Government hospitals, which offer free services to the public, have been affected by various challenges such as drug and medical equipment shortages, which are usually attributed to poor or lack of adequate funding.

And some social and human rights commentators have expressed fears that reintroduction of paying services in public hospitals will hurt more Malawians.

“There is need to create a consuming culture so that people have disposable income to pay for improved service delivery in hospitals. Right now majority of Malawians are directing their meager incomes towards hand to mouth issues of subsistence. To suddenly expect them to pay for health services with incomes they do not have is a slap in the face,” Billy Mayaya of Civic and Political Space Platform told Nyasa Times recently.

“Majority of people are in rural areas and will not be able to afford this drastic change. There is need to curb corruption in the Ministry of Health where billions of Kwachas are fleeced and direct the resources to subsidizing health care service,” he added.

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