HomeEditorial CommentHospitals are not prisons

Hospitals are not prisons

Zimbabwe’s major hospitals are slowly being turned into little prisons by merciless authorities who are detaining patients over failure to settle medical bills.

The Standard Editorial

Over the past few weeks, there have been increasing cases of patients being detained at hospitals in Harare and Chitungwiza for failing to pay their bills upon discharge.

Only a fortnight ago, a new mother nearly spent a week detained at Chitungwiza Hospital after failing to settle her bills barely a month after other women were held captive at Harare Hospital for the same reason.

They were only released after the intervention of human rights lawyers.

Parirenyatwa Hospital recently went as far as detaining a dead body, in an effort to force relatives to pay up the bills left behind by the deceased.

What justification do hospitals have to detain people against their will when Section 49 of the Zimbabwe Constitution guarantees their right to liberty? This question may have to be answered by hospital authorities one day in court if they fail to end the illegal practice.

Hospitals by their nature, should be places where people afflicted with various ailments find treatment and care in the loving hands of nurses, doctors and other professionals. All these workers should be geared towards helping them recover from their illnesses, and not scheme to deprive people of their liberty in the event that they fail to settle their bills.

What the hospitals seem to forget is that the act of detaining patients will have an unintended effect as poor people may shun hospitals where they will end up as prisoners.

Such a move would be catastrophic to efforts aimed at improving maternal health in Zimbabwe, which is currently in a bad state.

Ten women are dying everyday while giving birth and the bulk of them have no access to health facilities. Many cannot afford the high user fees which are yet to be scrapped following a directive by the government last year.

Hospitals must therefore put in place proper debt recovery systems and stop retrogressive measures that will only serve to deter people from seeking medical attention when they fall sick.

Recent Posts

Stories you will enjoy

Recommended reading