Recently Citizen TV aired the plight of two women who had been detained in hospitals here in Nairobi. Sadly, this are not isolated incidents. For a period of two years, their bills had shot up to millions leaving the patients stranded and at the mercy of the hospitals.
It was however unnecessary to detain the patients for this long periods. Hospitals justify this practice on the basis that if they release this patients, it becomes impossible to trace them. Therefore this leads to massive losses for the hospitals which are in business. Patients unable to pay their bills has been hugely attributed to lack of health insurance. In a bid to resolve this issue, some hospitals now require people to make down payments before treatment. This leads to people being turned away and unable to access medical care.
In some circumstances, patients and their families present title deeds and even log books as security as they make efforts to raise money for the bills. But what happens when a family does not have assets?
Many Kenyans are unaware that it is illegal for hospitals to detain patients. Therefore, whenever a patient is detained, there is nothing much done by the families. It should be noted that the constitution of Kenya provides that Kenyans have a right to have their inherent dignity respected and protected.
In a land mark judgement delivered by the High Court, Emmah Muthoni vs The Nairobi Women’s Hospital, the Court was in the view that any form of detention not sanctioned by Law that seeks to procure performance of contractual debts , is a violation of the right of liberty and human dignity. The Court further ordered that the hospital pay Emmah Muthoni Kshs.3, 0000, 000 for illegally detaining her.
The Court stated that patients have an obligation to pay medical bills. The Court therefore ordered that the amount payable to Emmah Muthoni by the hospital be used to settle the medical bills.
Hospitals should therefore find alternative means of recovering debts such as coming up with an agreement that is favorable to both parties instead of detaining patients.
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