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UK: Zimbabwean Man’s £100 000 NHS Debt Cancelled

A Zimbabwean man’s £100 000 ($122 000) NHS debt he incurred when he was left permanently paralysed while seeking asylum has been cancelled. He has also been granted refugee status.

The BMJ reports that Simbarashe ‘Simba’ Mujakachi had a stroke that required neurosurgery and he was in a coma for two weeks in 2019. The bill for NHS treatment he received at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was £93 000.

Mujakachi, originally from Zimbabwe, stopped receiving the treatment he needed because he was told that accumulating NHS debt would affect his future claims for asylum. He stated in an email update from the campaign group Patients Not Passports that he had to choose between getting better or risking being deported.

His stroke occurred after he had not seen his specialist team for months and had been billed over £6000 for the appointments and treatment he initially received.

After waking up from the coma paralysed on his left side and unable to speak or eat, Mujakachi, his partner, Melissa Smith, and their local community in Sheffield started the #JusticeForSimba campaign to highlight his own case and also the wider effects of the government’s “hostile environment” policies on the healthcare system.

The petition, signed by over 80 000 people, called for his medical bill to be written off and for the trust to oppose charging for migrants, for the Home Office to grant him refugee status, and for an end to all NHS migrant charging.

Mujakachi’s family moved to the UK from Zimbabwe in 2004 when he was 14. His father applied for asylum in 2009 after a warrant was issued for his arrest because of his criticism of the late former president Robert Mugabe.

On turning 18 Mujakachi subsequently also applied for asylum, but his claim was rejected, as were several further attempts at claiming asylum, despite him and his father remaining fearful for their lives if they returned to Zimbabwe.

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