PARIRENYATWA Hospital last week briefly detained the body of a person who died at the health facility after the relatives failed to raise about US$2 000 that the hospital was demanding before it could release the body for burial.
The distraught family members were almost in tears as they narrated their ordeal to The Standard crew yesterday.
Gift Matola, brother-in-law to the deceased, Emmanuel Mafuta, said the nightmare started when they wanted to collect their relative's body.
"Following the tragic passing on of our relative on Friday, we came here to process the collection of his body but the hospital refused to release it saying we had to pay US$1 992 first," said Matola.
Matola said Mafuta had succumbed to head injuries that he sustained when he fell from the top of a tobacco barn in Mvurwi.
"All of us are not earning much at our respective places of employment and so this is just a crisis. If we fail to raise the required amount, what then will happen to our relative," Matola said with tears brimming in his eyes.
He said his sister, the wife of the deceased, was eight months pregnant and could not raise the required amount as she was unemployed.
"I am worried about my sister. She is due very soon and she is not in a very good state right now," he said.
However, following the intervention of a hospital official, the family was later allowed to pay the US$130 that they had managed to raise.
"We have finally been assisted by an employee of a funeral home who directed us to the office of this gentleman [hospital official] who took over the issue and went to the accounts department and negotiated on our behalf," said Matola.
The family was unhappy about the treatment they received and felt the hospital authorities should have considered their circumstances.
"We never said we would not pay the amount; we just wanted to go and pay our last respects to Mafuta and then map out a way of paying the money," said Matola.
Efforts to get a comment from Parirenyatwa Hospital chief executive officer, Thomas Zigora proved fruitless as his mobile phone went unanswered.
Public health facilities in Zimbabwe are now infamous for detaining patients who fail to pay their bills despite the practice being illegal.
Recently, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) had to intervene after Harare Hospital detained a patient for failure to pay US$133 in medical fees.
The patient, Nyarai Gwaze, who had been admitted in the facility, failed to pay the full amount and offered to pay US$50.
The hospital insisted that she should first settle her medical bill in full before she could be released. Gwaze was only released after ZLHR threatened to institute legal action against the health facility.