The Malawi government says it will introduce paying fees in all its public hospitals be used to finance a health fund, Minister of Health Dr Jean Kalirani has disclosed.
Cabinet was currently working on the prices for the user fees “to help improve health service delivery.”
Malawi’s government hospitals offer free services to the citizenry. Often times the hospitals have suffered drug and medical equipment shortages – problems that have been blamed on lack of enough funding.
However, the issue of user fees remain contentious with Billy Mayaya, member of Civic and Political Space Platform, on record telling Nyasa Times that the move will hurt more Malawians.
“There is need to create a consuming culture so that people have the disposable income to pay for improved service delivery in hospitals. Right now the 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,” Mayaya told Nyasa Times.
“The majority of people in Malawi live 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.
Global development and advocacy charity, Oxfam, recently warned government against heeding calls to introduce user fees in the country’s hospitals, warning that the move will hurt the country’s poor.
In a statement signed by Oxfam country director John Makina, the organisation opposed the move, saying government has capacity to increase funding to the health sector without introducing a burden to the poor.
“Reports that some technocrats, civil society organisations and political leaders are advising government to scale-up paying services in public health facilities are not only sad but an attempt to violate poor people’s right to quality health care,” said Makina.
Government was also urged in a local newspaper editorial to put in place measures that would ensure money made from the user fees from public health institutions indeed goes towards improving delivery of health services “and not towards enriching people who only care about their pockets even where they put a number of lives at risk.”