Scores of patients whose medical bills are paid by the State under the social welfare programme are being denied treatment
at selected public hospitals after the Government failed to settle outstanding payments, it has been established.
Information gathered last week shows that the patients are being turned away with officials at the health centres blaming Government for failing to settle their bills.
Parirenyatwa Hospital is detaining those who fail to pay, even in instances where a doctor would have recommended their discharge.
The situation is the same at Harare Central Hospital where only those with particular ailments are being treated.
It is understood Parirenyatwa seeks to recover a US$1,5 million debt.
Labour and Social Welfare Minister Ms Paurina Mpariwa confirmed that less-privileged patients were being barred from treatment.
She conceded the health institutions were owed “a lot of money”.
“It is true, we owe Government hospitals. I understand that might be the reason why social welfare patients are being turned away,” she said. “We, as Government, should do something as soon as possible since it is badly affecting our citizens who desperately need our assistance,” she added.
Health and Child Welfare Deputy Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora, however, said his office is yet to receive the reports.
Dr Mombeshora said it is illegal for hospitals to detain or deny patients treatment.
“The reports have not yet reached our offices, but we encourage both public and private hospitals not to detain or turn away patients for any reason. Such issues should be reported to our ministry so that we investigate and deal with those found on the wrong side of the law. Hospitals should make a follow-up with the responsible authorities and stop turning away patients,” he said.
Harare Central Hospital public relations officer Mrs Miriam Mangeya could not be reached for a comment as her phone went unanswered. Parirenyatwa Hospital public relations officer Mrs Jane Dadzi said the hospital required funding to keep running.
She said patients suffering from specific medical conditions were being asked to pay for treatment because the ailments were not covered under social welfare.
“To be honest, the hospital needs money to continue running. Social Welfare owes us more than US$1,5 million.
“I think it is prudent for them to tell the nation when they last settled their bill.”
Chitungwiza Hospital chief executive Dr Obadiah Moyo, however, said the situation was different at his hospital with social welfare patients owing less than cash patients.
“We actually prefer dealing with social welfare patients because we can easily locate them and claim our money from the responsible authority. We have a good relationship with the social welfare,” said Dr Moyo.
Ms Cloty Chikazhe, who was seeking treatment at Parirenyatwa Hospital, said authorities at the health institution gave her a backdated bill, which she thought had already been covered by social welfare.
“Social welfare has been helpful, especially to us cancer patients, because the treatment is so expensive.
“However, demanding cash from us has left the majority of us in the cold,” she said.
Another patient who preferred anonymity said: “The doctors said I am fit for discharge, but I have been told that I cannot leave the hospital because my bill, which is supposed to be paid by Government, has not been settled.”