ESIGODINI District Hospital has allegedly been using its ambulance to transport its workers to and from the institution for a fee of $5 per month each, a move that has been described as misplaced and out of order by health officials.
SOURCE: SUNDAYNEWS ROBIN MUCHETU
Workers at the hospital who spoke to Sunday News said they were paying $5 per month for the ambulance transport.
“We pay $5 each month so that we are picked up from the shops to the hospital when we report for work and when going back home. The challenge is that they want cash and we do not have it, we can only pay them through EcoCash and they do not accept that,” he said.
The workers said they were desperate especially when they were on night duty if they would not have paid the $5.
“When we are on night duty we have no means of travelling so when you do not pay you do not get transport. We are forced to walk which is very dangerous as there are many illegal gold panners and other thugs that attack people, so we live in fear when we are on night duty,” said one nurse.
Contacted for comment on the issue the provincial medical director for Matabeleland South Province, Dr Rudo Chikodzore, said it was illegal for the hospital to use the ambulance as public transport.
“Ambulances are supposed to be used to transport patients and not workers, Also charging for using the ambulance to transport workers is not allowed. We will investigate the issue of staff paying $5 for transport for the ambulance as it is an anomaly,” she said.
Another challenge at the institution is the payment of consultation fees and medication at the pharmacy.
Patients are alleged to be failing to get treatment as they would have failed to pay cash for services.
“Consultation fee is $4, patients want to pay through EcoCash which is the most convenient way at the institution but it is not possible, they are forced to look for cash or they do not get services,” said another nurse on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation.
She said chronic disease patients were in a hopeless situation as they go back home without getting the services they needed.
“There are patients that are on antiretroviral treatment, diabetes and blood pressure treatment, they need to take their medication daily and they go for reviews but they usually fail to do so without paying consultation fees. The situation is so bad that at one point a doctor paid for one patient’s drugs,” she said.
Patients who spoke to the Sunday News said they now have to take drugs inconsistently as the hospital is not accepting any other form of payment other than cash.
“I am taking blood pressure medication so if I do not have cash to pay a consultation fee I take my tablets and skip a day or two so that I go to the hospital when I get cash. If I run out of the tablets I get very sick,” said Gogo Sethule Mdlongwa.
Failure to adhere to lifelong drugs causes adverse effects on the patient and leads to death in some cases.
The PMD said the hospital was still waiting for a Point of Sale (POS) machine which would make payments for consultation or drugs at the pharmacy easier.
“The institution applied for a POS machine last year and they are still to receive it. There were also challenges in having EcoCash due to some paperwork,” said Dr Chikodzore.