Patients Forced to Pay Bribes to Access Healthcare in Public Hospitals

To supplement income, health professionals in Gwanda hospital are involved in scamming patients give preferential treatment. Image by Unsplash

BY MELODY C. MPANDE | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | AUG 25, 2022

In Gwanda Hospital, patients in dire need of health care have to fork out bribes to get treatment or face death.

GWANDA (The Citizen Bulletin) — Sixty-nine year old Qhubani Tshuma groans in pain as he sits on a hospital bench waiting for his turn to get treatment

For hours, Tshuma receives no attention from the nurses on duty despite his condition which is coupled with tenuous blood pressure and marginal breathing.

As he lay helpless on the benches, a nurse approaches him to offer assistance, but for a fee of US$30.

But he is not given any receipt after paying the money.

“Although it might seem obvious that hospitals are safe places to look after the sick, my experience shows that this may not always be the case,” Tshuma says as he narrates his ordeal.

The nurse who pocketed the US$30 disappeared into thin air without offering him any assistance.

Tshuma regrets that he can no longer recognise the nurse that he gave the money.

He swears never to return to Gwanda hospital after this painful experience.

“It is a dangerous place. I would be a fool if l go back there,” says Tshuma.

Many elderly patients like Tshuma share the same experiences where health professionals are reportedly fleecing desperate patients to supplement their incomes.

Health workers and other civil servants are demanding over US$540 salaries citing a free falling local currency in the face of skyrocketing prices of basic goods and services.

To supplement their income, health professionals involved in scamming patients give preferential treatment and attention to those that pay in hard cash, while those who do not pay are neglected.

Another senior citizen, Peter Hlabangani (67) says sick patients are made to pay bribes of up to US$10 for them to jump long queues or get medication.

“There’s no way I can afford that amount. This simply means I will get sick, remain at home, if it means dying then so be it. The systems are just unfair,” says Hlabangani.

This is not only happening in Gwanda alone, but even in bigger public hospitals such as Mpilo and United Bulawayo Hospital, explains Dlodlo.

Health workers countrywide are demanding salary increases citing lack of value in the local currency.

“My daughter in law was referred to UBH for cesarean delivery, but ended up delivering normally. All her operation kit was stolen by the midwife. We have the name and it’s high time they get exposed.”
Kholwani Dlodlo

Gwanda Residents Association representative Wellington Nare says such misconduct by nurses is uncalled for and urges authorities to probe the unethical practice.

“We call upon victims to come open and help expose such culprits,” Nare says.

In July, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga who doubles up as Health and Child Care minister ordered a thorough investigation into cases of alleged corruption and theft of drugs by nurses and doctors at public hospitals.

This followed complaints that patients had to pay bribes at the public health institutions to access treatment and drugs.

Gwanda District Medical Officer, Dr Blesses Gwarimbo expressed regret that some health professionals were cashing in on desperate patients by demanding bribes to get treatment.

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Sometimes fraudsters can pose as nurses to mug the desperate patients and it happens everywhere, says Dr Gwarimbo.

“Officially, nurses are not supposed to be receiving money from patients. An investigation has to be carried out to find out the nurses who were on duty when Mr Tshuma was at the hospital. It’s really unfortunate it happened that way,” Dr Gwarimbo says.

*Edited by Lizwe Sebatha | Fact Checked & Proofread by Melody Mpande | Reviewed & Commissioned by Divine Dube.

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Social and Economic justice, Public health, Gwanda

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