Patrick Chitumba and Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Chronicle Reporters
SOME hospitals are allegedly turning away people seeking medical services saying they must first produce Covid-19 medical certificates.
The turning away of patients is allegedly happening across the country at some private and public hospitals.
A Covid-19 test certificate is beyond the reach of many as a rapid test costs about US$20 at private institutions and laboratories while at public institutions it’s free for people tested after contact tracing.
Health workers, especially nurses, are at a high risk of contracting Covid-19 and available statistics show that more than 300 nurses have been infected countrywide.
Government has however said it had received reports of patients being asked to provide Covid-19 certificates, a development it said must come to an end.
One of those affected by the decision to send away patients without a Covid-19 certificate is a 34-year-old pregnant woman who said officials at Gwanda Provincial Hospital said she could not register to deliver there without Covid-19 test results.
“I went to Gwanda Provincial Hospital intending to register for delivery and antenatal care visits since I am still in my first trimester. One of the clerks at the front desk asked if I knew my Covid-19 status and when
I said no, she said there was no way I would register as I am a risk to health care workers,” said the woman who preferred anonymity.
She said the clerk told her the decision was effective as from August 1.
The Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr John Mangwiro, said reports that some hospitals were turning away patients without Covid-19 test certificates had reached his office.
He said they were still investigating the matter but was quick to point out that Government policy was that every patient must be admitted and put in isolation while PCR tests are done to ascertain the patient’s Covid-19 status.
“It is Government policy that no patient is chased away from a medical institution, Covid-19 positive or negative. If the medical staff suspect anything, they should put that patient in a ward and quickly do PCR tests on that patient and if the results come positive, the patient is then put in isolation,” said Dr Mangwiro.
“We have received such complaints across the country and we will not hesitate to act on the health personnel who defy that policy and chase away patients from the health institutions.”
He said it is Government policy that patients are treated with empathy and are attended to as quickly as possible without being put under any prejudice or duress.
Dr Mangwiro said while the patient receives treatment, the PCR and RDT tests should be conducted on the patient as soon as possible.
“Let me reiterate that patients should not be chased away from seeking medical attention, they must be treated while PCR and RDT tests are being conducted as soon as they are received at any health institution in the country. That is Government policy which must be followed by medical staff and anyone disobeying must be reported to the Ministry as soon as possible,” said Dr Mangwiro.
Matabeleland South provincial medical director Dr Rudo Chikodzere said her office and that of the Gwanda Provincial Hospital medical superintendent were not aware that patients were being turned away.
She said medical staff who turn away patients are violating the rights of the patients and must be reported.
In a statement yesterday, Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Mr Enock Dongo said nurses were not willing to resume their duties as work stations had become a danger to their lives.
Mr Dongo said they were demanding better pay.
“We further emphasise that without adequate PPEs we will also not return because our hospitals have proven to be Covid-19 hotspots and the unprotected health workers have been the most vulnerable victims as the numbers of those infected are increasing.”