Vihiga clinical officer sentenced for extorting patients

Mr Clinton Matara (right) when he was arrested.

Photo credit: Derick Luvega | Nation Media Group.

A clinical officer at Vihiga County Referral Hospital has been sentenced to three months in prison for obtaining bribes from patients before attending to them.

Mr Clinton Matara was given the alternative of paying a Sh10,000 fine to secure his freedom.

Vihiga Senior Resident Magistrate Rose Ndombi also ordered Mr Matara to return the bribes he received from patients.

He was charged with obtaining money by false pretence, contrary to Section 313 of the Penal Code.

Mr Matara was charged with pretending to offer medications to patients, something he knew was false.

He admitted the charges, with prosecutors saying he pretended to be a doctor and asked patients to follow him to examination rooms.

This is when he asked for payments that are usually made through the hospital’s registration office.

He told the court that he was still a student and asked for forgiveness.

"I am ready to return the money," he told the court.

Mr Matara was arrested at the hospital on Thursday and taken to the Mbale Police Station before being charged.

Health Chief Officer Mary Anyenda told journalists in Mbale that Mr Matara collected bribes totalling at least Sh8,700 from patients.

Disguising himself as the medic on duty, the officer received bribes from four patients, Dr Anyenda said.

An imposter

Mr Matara had not been posted to the hospital but had gone there ostensibly to "attend" to patients.

The arrest came days after the Nation published an exposé on the ordeal of patients at the hospital.

Last week, patients claimed corrupt health workers were demanding cash before attending to them.

While all payments are supposed to be made at the accounts office, they said health workers demanded to be paid directly before serving patients.

Patients were allegedly asked to pay more than what the hospital charges for diagnosis and treatment.

They said the practice was more common at the hospital’s outpatient department.

"There have been cases of bribery at Vihiga County Referral Hospital in the recent past. Some officers have been taking money from patients so as to attend to them," said Dr Anyenda when she confirmed the arrest.

She went on: "We have been following up on the claims to ensure patients are not charged for what they are not supposed to pay for."

Dr Anyenda advised patients to be vigilant and only pay for services at the registration desk.

Patients’ details are captured digitally at the registration desk to track their progress while at the hospital.

She said money given to a health worker is not captured in the hospital records.

"It is good we have found one and this is being treated as a criminal offence. Our services are digital and upon registration of a patient, he or she is issued with a receipt and a card," Dr Anyenda said.

Hospital administrator Bernard Chabuga said four patients extorted by the medic had recorded statements with the police.

He said medics will now be required to always have on dust coats and name tags for easy identification.

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