Residents of Murambi Sector, Gatsibo District in Eastern Province have appealed to authorities in the district to help them access healthcare services.
Some 880 people are unable to get medical care despite having paid for the community medical insurance cover, known as Mutuelle de santé.
District officials told The New Times that they were aware of the issue, disclosing that the money was stolen by an agent of Irembo – a firm that operates an online portal – which serves as gateway to different government services. Since last year, like some other government services, payment for mutuelle de santé was digitised and is done through Irembo.
In May last year, the residents paid a combined Rwf2.7 million for their medical insurance cover.
Solange Murerwa from Nyagatovu Village is one of the victims.
She said that: “We paid (for) the health insurance in May last year, but every time we go to the cell they tell us that…we are not registered in the system. We waited, up to now we are not able to get medical services.”
Murerwa has visited Rwimitereri Health Centre three times seeking for treatment but was on all occasions turned back without being attended to.
“They told us that we should wait until they finish analysing our problem,” he said.
Murerwa and other members of community are now appealing for intervention from other responsible government organs.
Athanase Bitwayiki, from Rugarama village, says he paid for his medical insurance in two instalments, first Rwf6,000 in June 2018, and then Rwf24,000 a month later.
“I have a child at home who has optical problems, but he has not been able to get treatment yet I paid our insurance many months ago,” he said.
The Executive Secretary of Murambi, François Sekaziga, disclosed that they discovered that Cell leaders collected little money from Irembo agents
“When we asked Irembo agents, they told us that the system was not working,” he said.
The discrepancy was discovered in September last year when patients started going to health centres expecting to use the new insurance but they were not found in the system.
Richard Gasana, the Mayor of Gatsibo, said that an employee of Irembo stole the money.
“Irembo workers were expected to register the people in the system and start getting services. However, when some residents fell sick and sought for treatment, it was found that they were not in the system,” he said.
He added that, in collaboration with Rwanda Investigations Bureau (RIB), district authorities managed to trace and arrested the worker.
“He has been ill and is currently in the hospital. We have heard that he has some mental illness,” Gasana said.
Without specifying the dates, the mayor said that they plan to engage the health centre of Rwimitereri and Kiziguro Hospital to give the affected people “free” access medical care.
“The hospital will be given the list by the district leadership, then these families will be able to access services while we are still following up this issue,” he declared.
Fred Mufulukye, the Governor of the Eastern Province, said that they discussed the issue with Rwanda Social Security Board.
“The first thing we wanted was that no resident would be denied any service at the health centre,” he stated.
Jules Ntabwoba, in charge of Communications at Rwanda Online – the company that operates Irembo portal – said that investigations into the case are being handled by Rwanda Investigations Bureau and other institutions.
He disclosed that the investigations involve more than one suspect.
Stealing public health insurance money is not new in Gatsibo District.
In 2018, the district managed to recover Rwf1.6 million meant for health insurance of Simbwa Cell residents in Kabarore Sector that had been stolen.