Hospital practice challenged

Hospitals have no right to withhold birth records from mothers who have failed to pay maternity user fees, the minister of Health and Child Welfare has said.

Government hospitals say they are withholding the birth records as a way of forcing mothers to pay outstanding user fees. The practice, which has become widespread, was put before Parliament by Nkulumane MP, Thamsanqa Mahlangu.

"What is government's policy?" Mahlangu asked.

The minister of Health and Child Welfare Henry Madzorera said all babies were entitled to birth records.

"We know that we still have a User Fee Policy at all our hospitals and everybody pays user fees, a thing which we hope to abolish very soon when we put payment arrangements in place," Madzorera said. "We will not deny a baby its birth record just because the mother has not paid user fees. We would like to know which institutions are doing that, so we can rectify that," he said.

Silobela MP Anadi Sululu asked why some district hospitals were operating without qualified medical doctors. Madzorera attributed the situation to the emigration of health professionals over the last decade.

"We train around 150 doctors every year, so as they finish their housemanship they leave. That has been the problem. Since 2009, we have been re-training more and more of the doctors that graduate from our medical schools and we hope the deficit will be filled very soon," he said.

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