Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH), the main referral centre for Central Region and parts of Northern Region, has raised its by-pass fee from K1 500 ($3) to K2 500 ($5) effective August 1.
The fee is paid by patients who seek medical treatment from central hospitals without reference from public health centres in their areas.
KCH director Jonathan Ngoma said in an interview on Monday the increase has been effected to standardise the by-pass fee.
“We are different from other referral hospitals and therefore what we do only applies to KCH. In the past, the by-pass fee was being charged differently despite that its one hospital, with some departments charging K500 while other departments were charging K1 500. Now the new fee is going to bring uniformity,” he said.
Mzuzu Central, Zomba Central and Queen Elizabeth Central hospitals have maintained their by-pass fee at K1 500.
However, Global Hope Mobilisations executive director Caleb Thole said the practice will frustrate universal access to medical services because not all districts have enough capacity to cater for the health demands of the growing population.
He said: “Patients visit referrals because they are near them. Where should they go?”