Detained cancer patient dies

HARARE - Tauya Shumba, the liver cancer patient who was detained at Harare Central Hospital over a $227 hospital bill, has died.

Shumba, 34, died on Saturday night, a few hours after his release from one of the country’s major referral hospitals.

Several relatives and friends gathered at JL 11 Kaserera Street in Rugare for the funeral, said Shumba could still be alive if he had been released soon after his discharge from hospital.

Ignatius, Shumba’s elder brother, said his family feels the detention triggered the untimely death of his brother.

“We wanted to take him back to Karanda Hospital with the tests results but they chose to detain him over money as if we had refused to pay,” he said.

“I think if the situation was handled well, he could still be alive.”

Tauya was discharged last Thursday after a week in Harare Hospital’s ward B8. The hospital’s administration staff could not release him because relatives could not raise the minimum down-payment of $150.

They had offered to pay $80 and settle the remainder at the end of this month.

Rights lawyers have spoken out strongly against such delicts of false imprisonment which they contend violate Section 49 of the new Constitution. Hospitals have no authority at law to restrict the personal liberty of patients for non-payment of medical fees.

Section 49 of the new Constitution guarantees the right to personal liberty and outlaws the imprisonment of citizens merely on the grounds of inability to fulfil contractual obligations.

Tauya was only released on Saturday following a Daily News inquiry into the matter.

His grieving brother said: “After all, the hospital is just rotten; they gave us an embarrassing prescription which we had to take back for correction after a pharmacy in Avondale said it was impossible to sell 16 milligrams of codeine and without duration of treatment.”

Florence Nyapfuri, his aunt, said contrary to government claims that they were pro-poor, hospitals were portraying capitalistic tendencies in a difficult economic environment.

“All they care about is money, not human life,” she said.

“I visited him on Wednesday; he was asking staff when they would drain liquids from his stomach but nobody seemed to know or care yet they had the audacity to demand payment.”

Peter Moyo, the local councillor and council chief whip, said the death was unacceptable.

“In other countries, heads would roll and the (Health) minister would resign in embarrassment,” Moyo said.

“Maybe Tauya could still be alive if they had released him on time. If patients are treated and handled well, they and their relatives will feel more obliged to pay for outstanding bills. Such developments devalue our commendable Constitution and the leadership of the country.”

Tauya is survived by two children, Tadiwa, 7, and Tynos, 5.

He will be buried on Tuesday in Mberengwa.

Comments (1)

Editor: Please we demand a response from the Minister responsible... Let us know what they would have said

Justice - 23 April 2014

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