City hospital detains body of 'Covid-19' doctor Lincoln Khasakhala over Sh18m bill

Dr Khasakhala and his wife Margaret contracted Covid in March 2021. [David Njaaga, Standard]

The family of Dr Lincoln Khasakhala, who died on January 8, is in distress after a City hospital declined to release his body for burial until a Sh18 million hospital bill is cleared.

His younger brother, David, says Khasakhala and his wife tested positive for covid-19 in March 2021.

“Unfortunately, his wife died the same month. Lincoln had been weak and in July was rushed to Nairobi Hospital unconscious and admitted first at the HDU and then the ICU,” he said.

David says that his late brother was in ICU for two months. He was then moved into HDU and finally to the normal ward when he was in a vegetative state. He remained in that state until his death.

“By the time of his demise, we had incurred a bill of Sh22 million. Through our efforts and Nairobi West Hospital where he was working part-time, we managed to settle Sh2.9 million,” he said

The family, however, says the University of Nairobi, where Dr Khasakhala was a lecturer, refused to settle the bill.

“All efforts to make the University settle this bill have proved futile. The University claims that it was not informed when Khasakhala was admitted. Yet he was their staff and he was away for all those months. Of course, they knew he was admitted,” added David.

The University of Nairobi however told the Standard that Nairobi Hospital is not among the hospitals they cover.

“We cannot pay if you admit yourself. Nairobi Hospital is not one of the service providers contracted by the University of Nairobi. So for you to go to a private hospital not referred by us, you must get a special request and get permission to be admitted there. There’s no way we are liable for this,” said John Orindi, the University's Director of Corporate Affairs.

Margaret Khasakhala, the wife of Dr Lincoln Khasakhala. She also succumbed to Covid-19. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Orindi added that when a staff member is admitted, they always monitor the treatment and if need be, advise them to seek treatment elsewhere.

“The Hospital should take responsibility. They have the policy to cover these kinds of situations. Don’t go to the employer,” he added

But on January 27, Nairobi Hospital wrote a letter, which the Standard has seen, to the University of Nairobi requesting that the bill be settled.

“The late Dr Khasakhala was wheeled into the hospital in a critical condition. In this condition, the most we could do was to take urgent medical steps to save his life. As to the cost of this treatment, the family assured us that it had duly informed your institution about his hospitalisation in order to take care of his medical bill as his employee,”  reads the letter in part.

The family also says that it involved the Kenya Medical Association (KMA) and The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU).

KMA President Dr Were Onyino says before Dr Khasakhala died, and the bill was getting out of hand, they wrote to the Medical Council, Parliamentary Health Committee and the Ministry of Health to intervene and allow the family to have him discharged for care at home.

KMPDU Deputy Secretary-General, Dennis Miskella, said they made the request for Dr Khasakhala's discharge when the bill was only Sh7 million, but their efforts were ignored.

“Hospitals have no right to detain the body. We reached out to the Hospital and they claimed that the bill has to be cleared. We offered options but they refused,” added Dr Miskella.

Our attempts for two days to get a response from Nairobi Hospital proved futile. First, the corporate affairs department asked that we send our queries in writing. After sending the email, the hospital responded acknowledging receipt and said a relevant department would be in touch.

Excerpt from Lincoln Khasakhala's Nairobi Hospital bill. [David Njaaga, Standard]

But when no response was forthcoming, we called the hospital and we were informed by a staffer that the Hospital could not respond to our queries because of doctor-patient confidentiality.

Cases of bodies being detained by hospitals across the country are common and the matter is now part of the Health Amendment Bill which is awaiting the second reading in the National Assembly. 

National Assembly Health Committee chairperson Sabina Chege told the Standard that the Bill will be tabled on Tuesday, Feb 8.

The MP says it is unfortunate for hospitals to detain bodies due to pending bills because it causes grieving families more distress and makes it harder for them to find closure.

“No hospital has the right to detain a body," she said. "Nairobi Hospital should therefore release the body as alternative means to clear the bill are sought. This man was a medical doctor and it is sad because doctors are frontline workers. He deserved better,” added Sabina.

Khasakhala's and his late wife has an eight-year-old daughter.

His older sisters, Dorothy and Mary Khasakhala, said that the family has tried to maintain a routine that the child was accustomed to. She is yet to fully comprehend the loss of both parents in a span of 10 months.

“We will make sure she does not lack or feel the void of losing both parents that much,” said Dorothy.

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