Mpilo Hos­pi­tal sets Harare debt col­lec­tors on ex-pa­tients

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News - Pamela Shumba

MPILO Cen­tral Hos­pi­tal in Bu­l­awayo has un­leashed debt col­lec­tors to re­cover more than $22 mil­lion from pa­tients who have not set­tled med­i­cal bills.

The hos­pi­tal is strug­gling to re­stock on es­sen­tial drugs and re­ha­bil­i­tate es­sen­tial machin­ery as pa­tients con­tinue not pay­ing.

Well­cash Debt Col­lec­tors, which the hos­pi­tal en­gaged to col­lect its dues, is is­su­ing no­tices and at­tach­ing prop­erty be­long­ing to res­i­dents with out­stand­ing debts.

A source at Well­cash said thou­sands of no­tices have been dis­patched to ow­ing for­mer pa­tients.

The af­fected res­i­dents have, how­ever, ex­pressed con­cern over the hefty in­ter­ests that they are be­ing charged by the Harare based firm.

Health and Child Care Deputy Min­is­ter Dr Adrian Musi­iwa yes­ter­day de­clined to com­ment on the is­sue, say­ing he needs to com­mu­ni­cate with the hos­pi­tal first.

How­ever, he said the min­istry had dis­cour­aged hos­pi­tals from de­tain­ing pa­tients after treat­ment to force them to pay.

“I need to con­tact the hos­pi­tal and ver­ify. The pol­icy is that hos­pi­tals should not turn away pa­tients be­cause they don’t have money or de­tain pa­tients after treat­ing them. After pro­vid­ing ser­vice, there should be a pay­ment plan if the pa­tient can’t pay for the ser­vices in full,” said Dr Musi­iwa.

The Chron­i­cle is in pos­ses­sion of a let­ter sent to a debtor ow­ing the hos­pi­tal $381 but Well­cash is now de­mand­ing $496 after fac­tor­ing in “ad­min­is­tra­tive costs” of $115.

The debtor spent three weeks at the hos­pi­tal after sus­tain­ing in­juries in a traf­fic ac­ci­dent.

The res­i­dent, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, ap­pealed to the Gov­ern­ment to in­ter­vene, say­ing the rea­son why she was not pay­ing is be­cause she had no source of in­come and was strug­gling to make ends meet. “The gov­ern­ment should in­ter­vene and stop the hos­pi­tal from en­gag­ing debt col­lec­tors to re­cover debts. The gov­ern­ment is very much aware that a ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple in the coun­try are un­em­ployed, but peo­ple get sick all the time,” she said.

“Where do they ex­pect us to have the money for bills? It’s not that we are re­fus­ing to pay. The debt col­lec­tors are in busi­ness and are adding on their ex­or­bi­tant markups. In some cases the mark-up is more than the money owed. It’s the debt col­lec­tors who’re ben­e­fit­ing,” the res­i­dent said.

An­other res­i­dent owes $207, but the bill has gone up to $310. He said: “Th­ese peo­ple think that we’re de­lib­er­ately de­fault­ing. It’s be­cause we don’t have the money. I was fail­ing to pay the $207 but they have in­creased the money to $310. I have noth­ing to sell to raise the money”.

The Bu­l­awayo Pro­gres­sive Res­i­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion (BPRA) re­cently ap­pealed to the Health and Child Care Min­istry and the Par­lia­men­tary Port­fo­lio Com­mit­tee on Health to stop Mpilo Hos­pi­tal from at­tach­ing res­i­dents’ prop­er­ties over out­stand­ing pay­ments.

Chap­ter 2 Sec­tion (29) (1) of the Con­sti­tu­tion obliges the State to “take all prac­ti­cal mea­sures to en­sure the pro­vi­sion of ba­sic, ac­ces­si­ble and ad­e­quate health ser­vices through­out Zim­babwe”.

Early this year, Mpilo Cen­tral Hos­pi­tal sent debt col­lec­tors to all women who gave birth be­tween 2009 and 2012 at the in­sti­tu­tion, to at­tach their prop­erty after they failed to set­tle ma­ter­nity fees.

The hos­pi­tal’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Mr Leonard Ma­bandi, re­cently said ef­forts to re­cover the $22 mil­lion have yielded lit­tle due to eco­nomic hard­ships.— @ pame­lashumba1.

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