Patients owe Harare Central Hospital $16m

HARARE - Harare Central Hospital (HCH) is owed $16 million by patients and is struggling to recover the debt amid revelations that clients were giving false residential addresses.

HCH board chairman Douglas Gwatidzo said the oustanding dues were making it difficult for the referral hospital to provide quality service.

“We are owed over $16 million since 2009,” Gwatidzo said.

“If we were to factor in what we are owed by those unable to pay, it would be around $50 million. Follow up and recovery of the money is difficult because people are giving fictitious addresses.”

The government hospital, though serving hundreds of patients on a daily basis, is stuck between providing services to the poorest population and failure to recoup its money from both a defaulting population and government.

“We may have to engage the police as there seem to be no other way we can explore to recover the money,” Gwatidzo said. Patients complain that the hospital has resorted to detaining them, including expecting mothers until they have paid for services rendered, especially  after child birth.

Dispelling the accusation, Gwatidzo said: “As a hospital we have no policy or instruction to that effect.”

The maternity wing has in excess of 180 beds and caters for about 1 200 deliveries per month and 505 pre-natal visits per month.

HCH has 1 200 maternal, paediatric, psychiatric and medicinal patients’ beds.

“Our catchment is much bigger, even more than Parirenyatwa’s and it is continually growing with the growth in Zimbabwe’s population but there has not been corresponding growth in structures,” Gwatidzo said.

“Worse, we are attending largely to the poorest population.”

Peggy Zvavamwe, the HCH chief executive officer,  said hospital staff-patient ratio was currently five times the recommended.

“It is supposed to be 1:4 but currently its 1:20,” Zvavamwe said. “We are getting more patients than our capacity but the staff are doing the best that they can.”

Lack of hospital space; old, inadequate equipment, personnel shortages and low employee morale due to poor salaries are the greatest challenges for Zimbabwe’s health sector, according to experts.


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