A coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) on universal health coverage (UHC) has asked government to reverse its decision to introduce user fees in public hospitals starting July because many poor and vulnerable Malawians risk dying of curable diseases.
In a press statement released yesterday, the coalition says this is because many will not afford the numerous charges the government is introducing in public health facilities.
The CSOs have also asked government to abolish all existing fees in central hospitals, including bypass fees and paying services, saying they are unjust and fail to take into account the fact that people go directly to central hospitals because health care services at the primary level are inadequate.
The coalition includes CSOs such as Oxfam, ActionAid, Save the Children, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), National Association for People Living with HIV and Aids in Malawi (Napham), Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), and Development Communication Trust (DCT).
The statement is coming against the background that government, as part of the ongoing reforms in the Ministry of Health (MoH), intends to introduce user fees in district hospitals for those who want to receive special treatment and can afford to pay.
But according to the statement, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director Timothy Mtambo feels that the move will create a two-tier system where the poorest people will be left with the lowest quality of healthcare and the longest waiting time to access poor quality service.
While government emphasised that the user fees will be introduced on an option basis for those who can afford, the coalition has argued that this will have a catastrophic impact on poor Malawians.
“Any introduction of user fees will be disastrous for poor Malawians. Richer people who can afford to pay for healthcare will automatically be prioritised and will receive better services at the expense of the poor,” Napham executive director Master Mphande was quoted in the statement.
MSF deputy head of mission in Malawi Nicolette Jackson urged government and civil society organisations to continue lobbying donors to provide direct funding to the health sector. n