A PRIVATE medical doctor working in cahoots with a nurse at Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital are alleged to have smuggled an oxygen concentrator into the hospital and used it to rip-off desperate Covid-19 patients in need of oxygen.
The medical doctor, Tafadzwa Mushambi (31) and the nurse, Mathias Makunde were alleged to have been charging US$250 per patient in need of oxygen in what insiders at the hospital said it is just a tip of the iceberg.
This emerged after the arrest of the two last week for allegedly extorting US$100 from a Mutare resident, Mrs Lidia Kawadza whose husband had been admitted at the hospital’s isolation wing.
Mushambi and Makunde are alleged to have tried to take advantage of the fact that Mrs Kawadza had no access to the isolation ward where her husband was admitted to verify whether he (the husband) was actually being supplied with oxygen to extort her money.
The duo has since appeared before Mutare magistrate, Ms Audrey Muzhingi facing extortion charges as read in Section 134 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Chapter 9.04.
They were remanded out of custody on $5 000 bail each. Prosecuting, Mr Chris Munyuku, said on January 15 and at Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital, Mushambi and Makunde exerted illegitimate pressure on Mrs Kawadza to part with her money so that she could get oxygen for her ailing husband who was admitted at the hospital.
“The two accused persons connived to use an oxygen concentrator owned by Mushambi at the isolation centre at Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital for the purpose of hiring it to desperate patients without the approval or contract from the hospital authorities. The hospital had enough oxygen to cater for the patients,” said Mr Munyuku.
He said on January 15, Makunde through a text message using his mobile number told the complainant that he wanted US$250 to purchase oxygen for her husband who was admitted in the hospital’s isolation ward.
Mrs Kawadza later phoned Makunde who allegedly insisted that her husband was supposed to pay US$250 before being admitted in hospital. She was also told to bring the money at Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital and hand it over to Makunde.
Mr Munyuku said Mrs Kawadza later enquired from the hospital authorities on the availability and selling of oxygen to patients and was told that the institution had enough supplies of the commodity.
“The complainant then confirmed with the authorities from Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital who informed her that oxygen was not in short supply at the institution and was being supplied free of charge. The hospital authorities alerted the police and a trap was set. The complainant phoned Makunde who told her to wait for Mushambi at the car park. Mushambi later came to the car park where the complainant who was in the company of police intelligence operatives in her vehicle,” said Mr Munyuku.
Mushambi identified himself as the owner of the oxygen concentrator machine and explained how it works.
“Makunde also came to the car park and threatened to remove the complainant’s husband from oxygen supply if she delays to pay for the hiring of the oxygen concentrator machine before driving off from the car park.
“The complainant pleaded with Mushambi saying she had only US$100 in her possession, but Mushambi told her to call her later after raising the required amount before driving off,” said Mr Munyuku.
After a while, Mrs Kawadza phoned Mushambi who came back and she pleaded to pay the available US$100 since Makunde had threatened to remove her husband from the oxygen supply.
“Mushambi agreed to be paid the balance of US$150 later and accepted the US$100 which was trap money resulting in his arrest by the police intelligence operatives who were with the complainant. The trap money was recovered from Mushambi and was taken as an exhibit.
After arresting Mushambi, the police intelligence team searched his vehicle and recovered two documents which indicated that he had also received US$250 from Caroline Marume of Bordervale, Mutare and US$150 from Beaulah Hambirepi of Area 16, Dangamvura for the purchase of oxygen.
“Makunde was later arrested through the assistance of his superiors who phoned him and advised him to report to the police,” said Mr Munyuku.