Businessman stopped from paying patient’s debts at Coast hospital

The entrance to the Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital in March last year.

The entrance to the Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital in March last year.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

A man, witnessing the pain of families struggling with hefty medical bills in a hospital that’s holding their loved ones hostage till their dues are paid, single-handedly decides to reunite the agonising kin by paying their debts.

He does this for months on end, committing up to Sh2 million daily through his cement company to free patients stuck at the Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital as well as other facilities in the county.

In a fit of indignation, however, the county government serves Mombasa Cement Company owner Hasmukh Patel with a cease and desist notice ordering him to stop, forthwith, his philanthropic activities and leave the patients be.

The wealthy and influential Mombasa City-based businessman, as are thousands of his beneficiaries and locals, is perplexed by the directive, which seems counter-intuitive as the county government-owned hospital has been minting money through his charitable deeds.

Records obtained by the Nation show that the firm uses more than Sh2 million daily to pay medical expenses for the poor in public health facilities.

The company has stationed its staff in Coast region’s largest referral facility that also serves Kwale, Kilifi, Lamu, Taita Taveta, and Tana River counties to authenticate the bills, pay directly to the cashier and return the receipts to the head office as proof.

It also runs a free daily feeding programme targeting thousands of vulnerable and street families in Mombasa City.

Last week’s slap in the face has jolted residents, sparking a major political fallout among elected leaders, who have been trying to salvage the situation by extending an olive branch to the philanthropist.

“This is to bring to your attention that no donation or financial support should be sought or allowed to be given to any of our health facilities. This is a directive from the executive,” a letter by signed by Health Executive Swabah Ahmed to both the Public Health and Medical Services chief officers reads in part.

The letter, dated April 20, does not state the reason for the directive. Mr Patel has since stopped the payments, even after Senator Mohammed Faki pleaded with him to rescind his decision and continue helping the sick.

The senator noted that the hospital was getting a lot of money from Mr Patel, who had become its major financier only second to the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).

‘Major criris’

“There is a major crisis in all the public hospitals in Mombasa due to the county’s decision. The hospital’s revenue will go down drastically. I talked to [Governor Abdulswamad Nassir] on Friday and asked him to seek a meeting with Mr Patel to enable the payments to resume because people are suffering, especially patients on dialysis and chemotherapy,” he said.

Members of the county assembly, who are sharply divided over the matter, have summoned Dr Ahmed to shed more light on the directive.

This is amid allegations of massive corruption at Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital. Assembly Health Committee Deputy Chairperson Fatma Kushe (Kadzandani) said the matter will soon be addressed.

Political backlash

“We will summon the health minister, but we laud the move [to stop the flow of funds] because we are seeking to unearth a major scandal at the facility. We cannot allow such things to continue,” she said.

But a huge political backlash is in the offing, with Commission for Human Rights and Justice Executive Director Julius Ogogoh saying the organisation has planned to stage a demonstration outside the governor’s office to protest at the decision.

“The executive must tell us who authorised [Dr Ahmed] to place such a ban on donor funding. Will she clear the hospital bills? She should vacate the office because she has failed in her duties,” said Mr Ogogoh.