Masvingo General Hospital, the largest health referral centre in the province, has engaged the services of debt collectors to hunt down defaulting clients who owe it various sums of money, NewsDay has established.

Masvingo provincial medical director Ammadius Shamhu confirmed the development, saying the health institution contracted WellCash Debt Collectors, who then charge 30% of the bill for their services.

“Just like other government institutions, the hospital got into a contract with a debt collector to recover unpaid amounts. The understanding is that no one should be turned away from hospital when ill, but they should pay up,” Shamhu said.

NewsDay saw a message sent by WellCash to a defaulting patient.

“Please note that you have been handed over to Wellcash Debt Collectors due to failure to pay up Masvingo General Hospital debt, hence, you are given 48 hours to pay and liaise, failure to do so will give us no option, but to take you to court for non-payment, followed by property attachment, blacklisting and litigation,” the message of demand from WellCash read.

Defaulting residents, however, said the hospital rushed to hand them over to the debt collector and thus increasing their debt.

“While I agree I have to pay, I was just surprised to see the message from the debt collectors in a short period of time after being treated there following an accident. Now the figure has increased and this will again make the situation hard for me to pay. They are threatening to attach my property and all I have that is meaningful are my cattle. I can’t afford to lose my beasts,” one of the defaulting clients said.

Others said the hospital should have given them significant time to pay.

“I think they just went straight to the debt collectors without giving us time to pay. I never saw the reminders from the hospital,” another defaulter said.

This is not the first time the health institution has engaged the services of debt collectors. In 2013, the hospital did the same to defaulting patients.

Mpilo Central Hospital, Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals and Chitungwiza Central Hospital also engaged WellCash’s services in previous years in their bid to collect their dues from defaulting patients.

Local hospitals are struggling to finance their activities due to inadequate government funding and failure by patients to pay their dues.

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