(The court is hearing an application from the Malawalawa Health Evenhandedness Network otherwise known as Mhen and Oxcart, the civil society that is fostering health rights of citizens. The organisations want government to postpone implementation of user fees in hospitals)
Judge Mbadwa: I understand the lead person in this matter is Mr Jolijo Dzunje of Mhen, their new executive director who has taken over from Marita Wathaine. In the matter before this court, he has been chosen to speak on behalf of the network and Oxcart. Mr Dzunje, address the court if you and your group have compelling reasons to stop the current administration from implementing user fees in public hospitals.
Jolijo Dzunje: Thank you My Lord. We, the health rights campaigners, and on behalf of the citizens of this country, are shocked at government’s resolve to introduce user fees willy-nilly. We are not against user fees per se because we agree that medical care is not free. We know that even people in villages who visit herbalists (or what others call traditional doctors) part with something to the doctor for the services rendered, so, why should the same people not pay a reasonable amount for hospital services?
So, My Lord, in principle we are not against introduction of user fees but we don’t think this administration should be allowed to introduce user fees in public hospitals because it has failed to solve the challenges facing the health sector and whose solution is no introduction of user fees.
My Lord, the problem of drug pilferage in public hospitals has been an age-old one. Instead of finding a lasting solution, the administration of Mapuya decided to introduce the fees as if doing so would arrest the problem of drug pilferage. Doesn’t it sound like kindergarten logic My Lord that the solution to drug theft and abuse of resources in the Ministry of Health is user fees?
As our colleagues at Oxcart would agree, government should not fail to meet its obligations of ensuring that its citizens, especially the poor, have right to medical care at all cost. Government has demonstrated that it cannot functionally fund the health sector; provide equipment and supply drugs to its hospitals. So the question we are asking is: what will the people be paying for in hospitals?
My Lord, we will only allow government to introduce user fees when it has cleared the mess it has created in the health sector; hence, we submit that this decision should be suspended. Thanks My Lord.
Mbadwa: I have listened with interest to the submission of Mr Jolijo Dzunje. In deciding whether government’s decision is for the greater good, the court will look at whether the introduction of user fees will lead to improved health service delivery in the country. It is the court’s view that such thinking is warped because the Ministry of Health has demonstrated perennial parasitic tendencies of sucking the blood that gives it life through drug pilferage, theft of both donor and public money and uncouth tendencies that encourage a poor work ethic by health workers. Would introduction of user fees change this scenario? A big no! Would the willy-nilly introduction of user fees encourage inequality or lead to some sort of discrimination, especially of the poor people? Yes. Government policies should not lead to violation of rights of people who are supposed to be protected. Government has tremendously failed to demonstrate that it has the welfare of its people at heart. Therefore this court agrees that introduction of user fees be suspended forthwith.n