Gabat PHCU shuts down after patients reject new access fees

Gabat Primary Health Care Unit has been temporarily closed after a misunderstanding arose between the community and health officials over new fees imposed on patients.

The Northern Bahr el Ghazal state Ministry of Health has introduced the collection of registration fees from every patient seeking treatment at state health facilities. This is after HealthPool Fund organization reportedly ended its support for over 26 health facilities in the state in April 2022.

The State Minister of Health said they “introduced the cost sharing to help us buy drugs and pay incentives for doctors.”

However, locals in Gabat have rejected the move. The fallout forced the Gabat Primary Health Care Unit to close its doors to patients.

“We have closed because the community could not agree to pay the money. We can not just continue without asking patients to pay money because we were asked to collect something from them by the [state] Ministry of Health,” said Paul Maker Malual who is in charge of the PHCU.

Gabat area chief Malith Yuot confirmed they rejected the imposition of the new fees, arguing that the health centre is still being supported by aid agencies.

“We are very concerned about where the community will be getting this money if we agree to be charged by the administration. We want to know what they are going to do with the money since incentives and drugs are the responsibility of HealthPool Fund,” he asked.

In Aweil hospital, some patients told Akol Yam 91 FM that they are also asked to pay for registration and diagnostics. They say each person pays 500 South Sudanese Pounds for registration, while testing or diagnostic fees range from 900 pounds or more. Others say they were turned away after failing to pay the amount.

Officials say health facilities in the state have been hit by shortages of drugs since the organization pulled out in April over financial constraints.