By Sylvester Munanjala in Lusaka Zambia.
Zambian police are still investigating and are expected to charge a man who successfully masqueraded as a doctor for almost three weeks at the Lusaka Levy Mwanawasa hospital, the second largest hospital in the capital Lusaka.
The suspect Bonaventure Ng’uni 25, managed to sneak into the hospital daily, steal a doctors’ coat, a stethoscope and some other equipment and began targeting victims most of them women. Some of the victims reported he charged them for services he never rendered and promptly disappeared as soon as he had collected enough for a day’s job.
Police Spokesperson Charity Munganga-Chanda confirmed the arrest and called on anybody who was dubbed by the fake doctor to report the details at the Benny Mwiinga police station located at the Lusaka PHI residential area.
“We apprehended Mr Ng’uni after a complaint from the hospital management. We received the first complaint on 10th June and have been investigating since. He (Ng’uni) is still in custody and will be charged after we get complaints from the public.” She said
Following the arrest of the suspect, surveillance camera’s obtained by the police showed how the lax security at the hospital facilitated the work of the con artist. Apparently, he usually entered the hospital already dressed as a doctor. Other images also showed he sometimes arrived in civilian clothes, entered the changing rooms and appeared again in full doctor regalia including his trademark stethoscope and clutching a medical kit. He will then stroll through the hospital grounds and meet patients whom he charged for services he was supposed to be rendering. The police are still trying to trace any hospital staff who might have helped him in carrying out illegal consultations and charging patients.
The unmasking of the fake doctor occured a year and a half after thieves broke into the country’s largest referral hospital University Teaching Hospital (UTH), and stole medical equipment and machines including three computers, controlling towers and five monitors at the hospital’s Cancer Department. Apparently, security around hospitals were not increased following the theft
Dr Clarence Chiluba, director of clinical care at the hospital confirmed two formal complaints made to the hospital management by some of the victims. He said the first female victim was conned out of K160 for an ultra sound test he never carried out. A student doctor on training at the hospital also complained his doctors’ coat disappeared and security camera’s later showed the fake doctor wearing the missing coat.
There were angry reactions from service users following the arrest of the suspect. Marvin Kabunda was shocked when he learnt the news. “What has gone wrong with our society that such criminality can take place in hospital? How can someone target a hospital where lives are begging to be saved?”.
It is still not clear how the suspect accessed the doctors’ room that is supposed to be locked when no doctor is around and where the real doctors were at the time he used their offices to consul sick patients.
Joe Kabwe 35, a male nurse at a private clinic in Lusaka believes the fake doctor had help from some of the staff at the hospital.
“There’s no way a strange person can just walk into a large hospital fearlessly and use the doctor’s office for three weeks unnoticed. Someone must have been telling hi when a doctor is not around so he could use his office and somehow helped him to have keys to the locked doors”.
“Are the medical staff at the hospital not familiar with each other? How couldn they not identify that this ‘fake doctor’ doesn’t work in this hospital? Where was the hospital management throughout?” Tamara Njobvu of Rhodespark in Lusaka questioned following the incident.
With the average Zambia surviving on less than $1 a day and unable to pay for adequate medical care, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of fake medical and traditional doctors across the country. Hundreds of patients have been misdiagnosed and died following complications after consulting these fake herbalists. The ministry of public health has still not managed to stamp out fake traditional healers.