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‘Beware of this hospital scam’

Entrance of the Ilala Ridge Estate in Umhlanga. Photograph: Zama Ngcoya

Entrance of the Ilala Ridge Estate in Umhlanga. Photograph: Zama Ngcoya

Published Jun 5, 2022

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Durban - Management at Ilala Ridge Estate in La Lucia have warned desperate job seekers and the sick to be wary of a bogus website that advertises a non-existent medical facility, using their address.

This comes after the Sunday Tribune was alerted about a website belonging to a health-care service titled Eamed Healthcare Group with its head offices based in White River, Mpumalanga.

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The website of the health-care group claimed to have three hospitals under its ownership, namely La Lucia Private Hospital, Louwsburg Private Hospital and Berea Private Hospital.

The facilities offered by the purported La Lucia Private Hospital include a 24-hour emergency department, high-care unit, labour ward, medical and surgical ward, neonatal intensive care unit, day ward and GI unit, as well as private suites, while services range from general surgeons, neurologist and plastic surgeons.

Its existence purportedly dates as far back as November 2019. The site also offered several job opportunities and their closing dates. But alarm bells went off when the address provided on the website did not match the physical address. According to Louie Fourie, manager of the Ilala Ridge Estate, the address registered on the group’s website was not that of a hospital, but of a housing complex, and there was no medical practice in that vicinity.

Fourie said people claiming they were due for an interview or a doctor’s visit at the aforementioned address, had been turned away many times. They have also received phone calls of enquiry on many occasions.

“Applicants for jobs were required to submit their verified documents onto the group’s system, after which they were to have received a call and were advised to pay an amount of R3 000 to secure the position.

They are then given a date and address for the interview, while patients who require medical treatment go through a ‘rigorous’ registration process that consists of a call from the hospital prior to admission, and they are also advised to first make a payment.

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“These candidates are met with disappointment when they arrive at the location of the said hospital as 3 Imbenge Close, Umhlanga 4051, Durban, South Africa, leads to a housing complex at the Ilala Ridge Estate in Umhlanga, which does not offer any of the above services,” Fourie said.

He said he had made various attempts to stop this, but without success. “I have reported the business on Google to try and have the address removed, and obviously the people defrauded have to lay a charge.

We want this sorted out as soon as possible, but until people actually open a case, all I can do is to try and get the information removed from the internet to try and get these people to stop using our address,” said Fourie.

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Fourie said that the scam painted a negative image of the estate. “People need to understand that we are a residential estate and that the address that is being used is false. They need to follow due diligence and check whether the facilities do actually exist before they take time to travel somewhere,” he said.

Nicole Bollman, councillor in ward 35, said she had also received many complaints. “Job seekers as well as patients have gone to the address on numerous occasions for a job or health care.

Signage showing the address written on the website of the apparent La Lucia Private Hospital, which is in fact the address of a residential area. | ZAMA NGCOYA

The security guards then request a code and when they try to call the person who scheduled the interview for the code to enter, their number gets blocked. So it’s clearly a scam,” she said.

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Bollman encouraged people to lay criminal charges should they encounter the scam, as it would encourage police to react and potentially escalate the matter to the crime intelligence group, which would encourage them to probe further. Bollman reminded job seekers that they should not be paying money for interviews.

“They need to be quite vigilant about who they are liaising with, and that there is no money exchanged. It is imperative for anyone who has been scammed to open a case with the Durban North South African Police Services,” said Bollman.

A job seeker who almost fell victim to the scam said she noticed the site while job hunting.

“I work in the medical fraternity and when I searched for a certain job on the internet, that hospital came up. I am familiar with the area and I know many people that live there but not once have they ever mentioned the hospital,” she said.

“There are many red flags, but the biggest was when I noticed that they offered forensic services and came to the actual scene to do their investigations, but I know for a fact that is the South African Police Services’ line of duty,” she said.

The website is constantly updated, giving the impression of a fully functional platform.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health had not responded to questions by the time of publication.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE

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