The Ministry of Health and Population Services has said it is shocked by reports that some unscrupulous health workers, in central and district hospitals, demand payment from unsuspecting patients for healthcare services which are supposed to be free-of-charge.
In a statement issued Monday, Secretary for Health, Dan Namarika, said while some public hospitals across the country have private wards or departments for patients or clients who opt to go for such paying services, the government policy of free-of-charge healthcare service provision at the point of delivery to Malawian citizens is in force.
Namarika’s comments follow an undercover investigation by Lilongwe Central Member of Parliament, Alfred Jiya, which revealed that some hospital personnel were cashing in on free-of-charge services at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH).
According to Jiya, one of his constituents came to him last week requesting for K92,950 to get treated at Prosthetics/Orthotics Centre at KCH.
“When I heard that, I was shocked and immediately called Namarika who requested me to bring some evidence. Today, I came here at KCH and indeed the hospital staff at the centre told me to pay the said amount if the patient was to be treated.
“I told them that I only had K40,000, which they received and told me to bring the remainder later. Funny enough, they gave me no receipt and I reported the matter to police who took the two officials, a receptionist and medical assistant for questioning,” Jiya said.
Another Lilongwe resident, Gilian Nkhalamba, said her patient was charged K400,000 to have a knee operated on at the centre following an accident.
Nkhalamba said the officials told them that some Chinese nationals were also involved in an accident and had paid K800,000 to jump the queue.
But Namarika, in the statement, said no person should be asked to pay for any health care service in any of the government health facilities across the country.
“The Ministry of Health and Population wishes to encourage Malawians to utilise the Service Charters displayed in all health facilities to be well informed and demand accountability and transparency for quality of care.
“For those who opt to get services from the paying departments, you are being advised to ask for an official government receipt for the services that you have received and paid for,” Namarika said.
He has since urged the general public to report to hospital authorities any health worker demanding money for the health care services that are supposed to be free.