Bid to stop Mpilo debt collectors

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THE BULAWAYO Progressive Residents’ Association (Bpra) has appealed to the Health and Child Care ministry and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health to stop Mpilo Central Hospital from attaching residents’ properties over outstanding fee payments.

NQOBANI NDLOVU
STAFF REPORTER

Mpilo Hospital has hired Wellcash Debt Collectors to attach and auction property of residents with outstanding debts. The debt collectors have been sending letters threatening to attach residents’ properties within 48 hours.

In one notice to a Nkulumane resident who owes Mpilo $577, Wellcash Debt Collectors wrote: “A penalty fee based on the prevailing rate will be charged if you do not pay within the stipulated period.

“Note that you shall pay the overdue amount plus summons costs as court fees and interest thereof as well as further costs incurred by engaging the Messenger of Court in pursuit of the debt. Civil imprisonment proceedings shall be taken against you if you do not have enough assets to clear the debt.”

In a petition, Bpra advocacy and programmes manager Emmanuel Ndlovu described the move as evil and asked for the Health ministry and Parliament to intervene and protect residents from having their property seized.

“Bpra believes that it is immoral, insensitive and cruel for public institutions such as Mpilo Hospital to go to the extent of issuing summons to residents in arrears and seizing their properties in the name of recovering debts,” Ndlovu’s petition reads.

“The association believes that the institution is missing the point by assuming that residents do not want to pay, yet the reality is that they cannot afford to pay due to Zimbabwe’s rundown economy which has an unemployment level of over 80% and where most workers earn salaries way below the poverty datum line of about $540.

“It is the association’s contention that issuing summons against residents and getting court orders to seize their belongings effectively erodes the social contract between residents and public service providers, leading to a failure by such institutions to meet their obligations to provide services as a human right.

“The association would like to remind these institutions that Zimbabwe’s new Constitution recognises access to healthcare as a human right, with Chapter 2 Section (29) (1) obliging the State to ‘take all practical measures to ensure the provision of basic, accessible and adequate health services throughout Zimbabwe’.”

Mpilo Hospital chief executive officer Lawrence Mantiziba has defended the attachment of residents’ properties as necessary to recover money owed by former patients.