Hospital denies holding infants over Sh3.5m bill

HEALTH & SCIENCE |

The boys were born prematurely. [Courtesy]

On February 1, this year, Charles Kyalo and his wife Virginia Adhiambo were excited to welcome quadruplets to their family.

The boys were, however, born prematurely and had to spend their first days in a neonatal Intensive Care Unit. They incurred a Sh4 million bill which the parents could not foot.

And this was the genesis of a vicious court battle between the couple and Nairobi South Hospital.

Kyalo and Adhiambo accuse the hospital of turning their babies into prisoners at birth while the hospital, which denies holding on to the infants as collateral, accuses the two of making little effort to raise the balance of Sh3.5 million.

The parents claim the hospital released their two boys on February 26, 2021, but failed to discharge the other two on account that they were still being treated. They claim they were told that they would only be released once they cleared the bill.

“The illegal detention of the minors has exposed the petitioners and the minors to emotional and psychological torture and exposed the minors to inhuman and degrading treatment. The respondent’s act of holding on to the minors as lien directly infringes the minors’ rights to liberty and security of persons,” court papers filed by the parents’ lawyer Alex Mola reads in part.

Kyalo claims that on March 15, he wrote to the hospital demanding it releases the babies unconditionally. However, he says, the hospital demanded that he deposits Sh1 million and make a commitment on how he would foot the bill before the hospital’s directors would meet to decide whether to release the boys.

“In holding on to the minors as objects of lien to compel the petitioners to clear the outstanding bill, the respondent has demonstrated that it does not see the minors as human beings, but rather as some objects of value that can be held as ransom for payment,” he continued.

But the hospital has a different account of what happened.

In its reply, it claims the minors, who have now been discharged, were underweight. It further claims the parents knew that they had to remain in hospital for medical reasons. They were discharged on March 14.

The hospital argues that the parents have not committed to settling the bill. It argues that when the two came to the hospital, they promised to settle their bill. At the same time, their insurance allegedly committed to pay Sh200,000. It says it has not charged the couple any extra coin.

“The respondent constantly demanded and reminded the petitioners to settle the accruing charges, but the petitioners continued to assure the hospital that the bill would be settled in full. At no time did the petitioners inform the hospital that they would not be in a position to settle the said bill. To demonstrate the lack of good faith and reasonableness on the part of the petitioners, they demanded they be allocated a more expensive private room, which greatly added to the overall cost of hospitalisation,” the hospital administrator Stephen Ndulu replied.

Ndulu argues that they willingly walked into a private hospital thus should honour their end of the bargain. He argues that they would have gone to a public institution that would settle the bill if they were not able to raise the money.

“There was no emergency that would have stopped the first and second petitioners from seeking the services of government-owned medical facilities or Kenyatta National Hospital where there would have been an obligation on the part of the government to defray part of the cost… It does not sit well for dispensation of justice for the petitioners to seek treatment in a private hospital facility and expect to walk out without paying under the guise of constitutional protection and freedoms,” he continued.

He says the bill stands at Sh3.5 million.

The case will be mentioned on October 12.

 

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