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Free ambulance service, medication for pregnant women

by Staff Reporter
07 Jun 2022 at 23:41hrs | Views
A PARTNERSHIP between Government and the World Bank has resulted in the introduction of free ambulance services and medication for needy pregnant women in Bulawayo and Harare as part of efforts to improve health services.

Ambulance crews in the two cities will also receive foreign currency incentives.

The deal is financed through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in partnership with the World Bank, while Cordaid, an international charity organization is acting as the fund holder.

Every month, Bulawayo City Council (BCC) receives an average of 1 400 calls for ambulance services and the figure could soon go up as some residents were not seeking these services due to lack of funds.

High ambulance fees have been blamed for some pregnant women delivering at home which threatens the gains made in reducing maternal and neonatal mortalities.

At the moment, BCC is charging $7 400 or US$10 ambulance fees while the costs from private players can go up to US$60.

Needy pregnant women are given a Cordaid voucher that they use to access health services and if one is transferred to a hospital, she does not have to worry about incurring costs as the voucher system also applies there.

Cordaid pays health institutions for costs incurred.

Bulawayo Health Services Dr Edwin Sibanda said women are offered a very cheap voucher funded by Cordaid as part of results-based financing.

"They deliver at the clinic using vouchers and if they need to be transferred to Mpilo Central Hospital, they are transferred using the council ambulance using the same voucher.

Therefore, it looks free to the user.

If the woman has been transferred to Mpilo Central Hospital, the hospital will offer services based on that voucher.

At the end of a period, preferable a month and certainly by the end of a quarter, vouchers are submitted to Cordaid as evidence of work done and that is the result as it were," he said.

Dr Sibanda said clinics with the facility are able to buy hospital consumables as a result of the voucher system.

"The more women book at our clinics the more money our facilities get including the ambulances themselves.

The ambulance services will then translate the money into the maintenance of the ambulances and a little of it goes into the pockets of the ambulance crews," he said.

"The intention is that for those who are indigent or poor there is a means of testing by our social workers to measure the level of poverty diagnosis."

In the council's latest minutes, BCC said through the partnership, a Results Based Financing programme had been introduced for Bulawayo and Harare clinics.

"The programme also included the provision of ambulance services for conveying patients to medical centres.

Cordaid was the voucher management agency for the project.

Resources were channeled to the two local authorities through Cordaid and in terms of the agreement, resources were exclusively for improving health outcomes," read the council minutes.

"The salient features of this programme which was intended to strengthen the availability and utilisation of health services in the cities of Harare and Bulawayo were the following: the timely provision of the ambulance services as it was required to be availed within 20 minutes of the call and the payment of US$30 for each call."

According to the report, the US$30 paid per each call will be allocated towards payment of emergency services crews and to improve the capacity for the city's ambulances.

"The ring-fencing of this income and that 25 percent of it be dedicated to staff incentives with the remaining 75 percent going to the procurement of ambulance equipment and the development ambulance infrastructure," reads the report.

"The initial agreement was however silent about how the 75 percent should be treated.

Cordaid now desired that it be dedicated to ambulance equipment procurement and infrastructure development as was the practice in this programme."

The report states that the council has also received nearly US$15 000 for ambulance services.

"In pursuance of the agreement, ambulance personnel had been paid a total of US$3 689.00 out of the US$14 790.00 that had been collected.

For ease of administration (the challenge of loose US cents) the allowance per individual was rounded downwards to US$59.50 instead of US$59.63," reads the report.

"This was a worthwhile endeavour that was intended to improve primary healthcare and Bulawayo residents benefit in that the indigent amongst them had timely delivery of services at no cost to them.

Council was also benefiting from the implementation of the programme in its clinics."

Last week on Wednesday during a council meeting, the local authority adopted the report which will result in ambulance crews being paid their allowances while the additional funds will be reserved for improving the ambulance service.

Bulawayo Deputy Mayor councillor Mlandu Ncube commended the initiative saying it will improve health care services, reads the report.

"He added that the Chamber Secretary's Department should ensure that ambulances were properly equipped for efficiency in transporting patients. Councillor Sikhululekile Moyo concurred.

She suggested that the department should install Google Maps on ambulances for easier location of the point of calls as this would align with Council's vision for a smart city," reads the report.

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