A HARARE-BASED firm, Wellcash Debt Collectors which was hired by Mpilo Central Hospital, yesterday issued notices to attach property from scores of Cowdary Park residents with some owing as little as $7,90.
Mpilo Hospital, battling to recover thousands in outstanding bills from former patients, resorted to hiring Wellcash to attach and auction property of residents with outstanding debts.
A Wellcash official could not put a figure to the number of letters served only saying they “issued plenty letters to debtors today (yesterday)”.
It is understood more than 100 notices were dispatched.
Southern Eye is in possession of a letter sent to a debtor owing Mpilo $7,90, but Wellcash is now demanding $17,90 after factoring in $10 administrative costs.
Another client owes $207, but the bill has gone up to $310.
“We discovered that you failed to respond to several demands served to you by us on an outstanding amount of $7,90 owed to our client Mpilo.
“We are sorry with great concern to say if no payment is made at our offices, your property will be removed legally through the court for non-payment of the debt,” the notice of property removal dated June 17 2014, reads.
In March, the Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association (Bpra) appealed to the Health and Child Care ministry and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health to stop Mpilo from attaching residents’ properties over outstanding fee payments.
One of the affected residents appealed to the government to intervene by slashing hospital bills in the same manner it did with water and electricity in the run-up to last year’s elections.
“The government should intervene and stop hospitals from engaging debt collectors to recover debts. The government is very much aware that people in Bulawayo and in most parts of the country are unemployed, but people get sick all the time,” a debtor 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 mark-ups. In some cases the mark-up is more than money owed, so who benefits here? It’s the debt collectors,” the client said. Another client said the government was failing to uphold the Constitution which recognises access to healthcare.
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 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.
That was despite the government directing all public health institutions to stop charging maternity fees in January 2012 in a move aimed at improving maternal and child healthcare.
Public hospitals resorted to detaining mothers who had just given birth to force them to pay.
The maternity fees had been blamed for the country’s relatively high maternal and child mortality rates as women were forced to give birth at home.