Lawmakers have raised alarm bells over the extortion of rural residents in need of government ambulance services.
Speaking in parliament last week, Hon Molly Mkandla questioned the minister of Health and Child Care on why government ambulances were demanding fuel or some form of payment before rendering assistance to patients.
As per the World Health Organization, ambulances significantly contribute to the improvement of the referral system, which is essential to obtaining universal health care.
According to the 2018 Auditor General Report only 48 percent of ambulances in Zimbabwe were functional as a result negatively impacting transportation of patients in need of critical care.
In response government has since acquired ambulances to augment the shortage.
Government procured a fleet of about 100 ambulances in 2021 in order to improve public health outcomes.
However, rural patients and their relatives have to pay for fuel or make payment before the service of an ambulance can be rendered to them.
Hon Mkandla interrogated the modus operandi.
“My question is directed to the Minister of Health and Child Care, what is the Government’s position on the Government ambulances?
“When they carry patients from rural areas to district hospitals after being referred, patients are asked to fuel the ambulances or pay a certain amount?” asked Mkandla.
On behalf of government, Hon Amon Murwira declared that any soliciting of fuel or payment from patients was corruption.
“There is no policy of Government that speaks to people, individual citizens putting fuel into a government ambulance.
“Certain cases are of irregularity that should be reported as such and they will be dealt with in the context of corruption.
Murwira urged communities to report such acts of corruption.
However, Harare North legislator Hon Allan Markham the minister how one can report corruption when the service being offered could save a life.
“My question is, how does the Minister expect me to report corruption if I call an ambulance when someone is dying, and they want US$30 for fuel?
“If I report corruption afterwards, do you think health personnel will come to my house again?” said Markham.
The cost of health serviced is out of reach for many but further exacerbated by corrupt tendencies.