Balaka health office under probe for fees
Minister of Health Atupele Muluzi has said that he will institute an investigation into allegations that the Balaka District Health Office (DHO) is charging patients for using the ambulance in the district.
Muluzi, who expressed shock at the allegations, said its government policy that patients do not pay for ambulances
“I will immediately request the Director of Health Services to set up an investigation into the matter and to report back within the week,” Muluzi said.
Bereaved families [in order to have remains of their deceased relations ferried to the village] have overtime been asked to contribute money within the range of K10, 000 to K30, 000 for the service.
The revelations come after a recent incident during which a driver of an ambulance refused to ferry remains of Margret Dingani who succumbed to blood pressure after being referred from Phimbi Health Centre on grounds that the bereaved family failed to raise K12,500, which he demanded.
The communities have since written the Ministry of Health over the matter and are calling for redeployment of concerned officers.
“They took advantage of people’s ignorance but things are no longer the same; all we want is to have all the money reimbursed and necessary action taken against all the officers who have been abusing poor people in such manner,” said Alex Chiphanthi, Monitor for Phimbi Radio Listening Club in a telephone interview over the weekend.
“The driver insisted he was working on instructions from his superiors who, he said, claim they do not get enough fuel allocations from government, and yet could not produce any receipt as proof that the money was accounted for.”
When contacted, DHO Katenga Kaunda expressed ignorance on the matter and pushed the blame to drivers.
However, Member of Parliament for Balaka South Constituency, Frank Mapondo, rubbished Kaunda’s claims saying he is aware of the issue.
“This issue has over time become a burden on MPs because whenever people fail to raise the money they rush to the MP to help them with transport. I sit in the Dec [District Executive Director] but I have never heard of such a resolution.Need I say that it is unusual for drivers to do something without the knowledge of the DHO’s office,” Mapondo said.
The situation in Balaka comes after similar reports at Chitipa DHO and Karonga where, apart from ambulances, people are forced to pay for mortuary services.
Commenting on the development, Development Communication Trust Executive Director, Prince Mtelera, whose organisation is implementing the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) project in Balaka, attributed the problem to information gap between duty bearers and the grassroots.
A vibrant writer who gives a great insight on hot topics and issues