People seeking medical care at Kamuzu Central Hospital have complained that they are forced to pay money to doctors or nurses at the facility to access services.
Patients at the Ethel Mutharika Maternity Wing say they are told to pay directly to nurses or doctors without receiving a receipt.
One Malawian father told social commentator Onjezani Kenani that patients are asked to pay money, ranging from K7,000 to K32,000.
“Some of the medical personnel even openly ask patients for the cash without hiding the fact that it will go straight into their pockets. I hope authorities will investigate this and take action,” the father told Kenani who shared the story on Facebook.
A doctor at the hospital corroborated the patients’ claim saying there is a tendency where doctors and nurses ask patients especially those who go for antenatal care to pay them personally.
The doctor said the malpractice happens because the charges at the maternity wing are not affordable and patients pay a lower fee when they give the money directly to the medical worker.
“I’m told – though not really verified – that this service was meant to have affordable prices but as of now it’s about K8,500 for every visit, K2,500 for a bypass fee (if you have a clinic near where you are coming from) K15,000 for scanning, normal delivery is K38,000 and if surgery (C-section) is required the price is K98,000.
“Now, the problem is that most people can’t afford to pay this amount every month for close to 9 months. As a result, some patients are indeed paying less than the official amount to the personal pockets of nurses or doctors to access the services at the facility.
“Upon pocketing the cash, the doctors act as the patient’s personal doctor for the duration of the pregnancy and everything that is involved,” the doctor said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has asked patients who are forced to pay money to doctors to file complaints with the office of the Ombudsman.
Commenting on Kenani’s post, Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango said there is a hospital Ombudsman at most hospitals who handle such issues.
“Thanks for this bwana Onjezani Kenani please help in reminding people to remember that there is a hospital Ombudsman at almost every hospital and they should be able to take particulars of the shift covered to trace the officer
“These ombudsman officers report and handle the case independently with the office of the ombudsman to whom they report directly,” Malango said.