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Spotlight: Meet Zeal Akaraiwai, Nigerian man who secretly foots patients’ hospital bills

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It is a general knowledge that Nigeria’s healthcare sector is in comatose and as such many less privileged Nigerians have been subjected to the worst form of medical care and attention due to poor access to quality healthcare in the country.

In many health facilities around the globe, once a patient is treated, all bills must have been settled before he or she can be discharged from the hospital.

Patients who fail to do so, are usually detained long after they should be medically discharged until they are able to foot their bills.

In Africa, many hospitals employ the use of security guards and sometimes lock the ward doors to illegally detain patients who have bills pending and in some cases, not even the death of these patients can secure their release as morgues hold the deceased until families can settle their bills.

A Nigerian financial consultant, Zeal Akaraiwai, who feels the pain of less privileged people unable to settle their hospital bills, has intervened by footing the bills of stranded patients in selected hospitals in Nigeria.

The Nigerian philanthropist reportedly visits hospitals and interacts with medical authorities at the facility to inquire about patients who are well but cannot go home because of pending bills.

Akaraiwai who is in his 40s, secretly settles the bills and does not disclose to patients that their bills have been offset as he does not want to be thanked and would not even want to stay in touch with any of the people he helps.

On one of such surprise hospital visits, Akaraiwai met a patient with a heavily bandaged thigh from a gunshot wound. The patient, at that moment, sought a miracle as he did not have any means to pay off what he owed the hospital.

Akaraiwai, after having a chat with the patient without disclosing who he was and his mission, paid the man’s $250 bill – without his knowledge.

Although the philanthropist wouldn’t want to be thanked, he told the BBC that there was one thing he would like in return: “that one day they might tell a story about him: the story of how when they were in hospital, an angel came, paid their bill and left.”

The consultant is said to have met people who have been compelled to stay in hospitals for six or eight weeks after they have been discharged, the report added.

The rescue mission is being carried out under the “Angel Project”, and it sources funds at times from from friends and family. Akaraiwai ensures he keeps receipts in a black book, which would also contain details of the patients whose bills he has paid.

The Angel Project does not cater to people with serious medical conditions but those who are far better and ready to be on their way home.

The humanitarian said he is, sometimes, forced to deviate from the original target of the project, recounting the support he gave to a woman who bled for 11 months because she had to undergo a hysterectomy.

Akaraiwai paid $400 for her operation and during another visit to a public hospital, he also footed the bill of a patient who needed a leg ulcer operation and a 10-year-old girl who needed further intestinal surgery

The philanthropist, who is saddened about the situation of such stranded patients, chastised the government over the development.

“The mere fact an individual, like me, has to go into a hospital to pay the bills of people who are stranded speaks volumes about the injustice in the system,” he said.

“There’s no reason why we cannot have proper health insurance. We have clever people who can think of schemes that can work.”

“Every week I see the impact of not having compulsory health insurance, and people die. So where do you want to put the price of a human life?” Akaraiwai questioned.

Meanwhile, for the financially buoyant philanthropist, helping patients to settle their bills is one of the ways that he realizes his Christian faith.


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