HARARE – Scores of prisoners face a health risk after Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals (Parirenyatwa) threatened to cut off medical services to Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) over a $567 000 debt.
Parirenyatwa provides medical care to incarcerated people, including midwifery services to expecting inmates.
ZPCS health services director Evidence Gaka made the revelation during a tour of Chikurubi Female Prison (Chikurubi) by the Parliament’s Women’s Affairs and Gender Development portfolio committee.
“We owe Parirenyatwa…about $600 000 and from the 1st of April, they may not be able to attend to any one of our patients (sick prisoners), if the money is not paid.
“They have already communicated that unless we pay the outstanding fee, which was $567 000 as of February 28, they will not be able assist” he said.
Three pregnant inmates locked up at Chikurubi — with a holding capacity of 287 inmates, and currently housing 145 — could be affected by the development.
The prison’s clinic sister Dudzirai Dziva told the committee that “we do have midwives here but there are no delivering facilities. There are no delivery beds as well. We can’t deliver babies here”.
“We do not have an ambulance right now, so transport is a problem,” she said.
The correctional facility is also grappling with medicines, equipment and stationery shortages.
“We do not have nebulising drugs for patients who get asthma attacks and those who are hypertensive,” Dziva said.
“We are also sending the children for vaccination elsewhere because we do not have refrigerators to keep vaccines and other drugs,” she said.
Sunningdale MDC MP Margaret Matienga asked what measures ZPCS takes in cases of emergency for instance assisting women in labour and Dziva said they would just use whatever available resources to deliver the baby and then take them to hospital after.
There are 13 children living with their jailed mothers. Foreign nationals from Burundi, DRC and Zambia are also doing time in the prison.
The prison’s officer-in-charge, Marry Misihairabwi, said they were facing challenges in transporting prisoners and accessing toilet paper.
“We have issues with our vehicle as we have one that caters for Norton, Chitungwiza and all courts in Harare, so we are having challenges,” she said.