By Mark Mhukayesango
Gweru, April 29, 2016 – HEALTH and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa (pictured) has condemned Gweru Provincial Hospital’s move to unleash debt collectors on defaulting patients, saying the hospital has to use more “hospitable” means of recovering debts.
The major hospital is owed $1,7 million in hospital bills by patients, most of whom are on the PSMAS medical aid that has over the years struggled to remit payments to health facilities.
“What we always encourage is that the hospitals should use more hospitable methods to get whatever is owed to them. But more importantly we should be able to give more resources to the hospitals, because if we don’t, the hospitals will try and squeeze the population to get the little,” Parirenyatwa told Radio VOP during a tour of the hospital this week.
He said government was hardpressed to deploy more financial resources towards health, considered a priority in a nation’s life.
“We don’t want patients to be taken to court for not paying. But patients should also understand that we need to run the hospitals,” Parirenyatwa said.
He urged the hospital’s medical superintendent, Fabian Mashingaidze to understand the plight of patients who cannot afford to pay the hospital bills on time.
According to the hospital, the debt is said to have ballooned from $1,1 million in 2014 to the current debt of $1,7 million.
Last month, before unleashing debt collectors on the patients, the hospital sent text messages demanding payment to settle the bills, but few responded.
Mashingaidze is on record as saying unleashing debt collectors on defaulters yielded positive results, as more people were now forthcoming to settle outstanding bills.
“We have been getting a good response from our defaulters since we sent them final warnings, so the strategy is working,” said Mashingaidze.
Midlands hospitals have suffered financial constraints with a paltry $3 000 having been disbursed from $460 000 allocated to the province by the ministry this year.
Parirenyatwa said the poor disbursement of funds was pushing hospitals to take a combative approach on defaulters.
“Midlands was allocated $460 000, but to date $3 000 has come in and that is worrying. So we continue to lobby the rest of government, to say please look at this priority area of health,” said the minister.
“We cannot depend on donors, because they can say that they will not support us anytime. So government has to support its own health system.”