Family risks losing property over hefty medical bill woman accrued

Alice Koech and Joyce Bore ssiters of the late Sarah Kandie during an interview with 'the Standard' at their home in London Estate, Nakuru County. [Harun Wathari, Standard]

The family of Sarah Kandie who ran up a huge hospital bill before she died could lose the land they used as surety.

Kandie, a mother of four, died in January last year after a year-long home-based care.

Earlier, she had been admitted for a year to the Nakuru Nursing Home (NNH) as she battled fibroids.

Her illness and death left her siblings divided, and buried in debt.

Alice Koech, an elder sister of Kandie, took in one of her nieces following her sisters death. Koech is the only one in the family in formal employment.

“It has not been easy. I lost my sister after spending all I had. I took loans for her medical bills and handed in a title deed to have her discharged only for her to die,” said Koech.

Kandie was first admitted to a different facility but her condition quickly worsened and she was transferred to NNH for specialised treatment in 2018.

“We were lucky that she was actively contributing to her National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) cover which catered for a huge chunk of her bill before things took a different turn,” said Koech.

Kandie was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for nearly four months after which she was transferred to the High Dependency Unit (HDU) at the private facility.

A year of medical treatment at NNH saw her health slightly improve, but the matter took a twist when the facility was temporarily removed from the list of NHIF-accredited hospitals. 

“We were given two weeks to make a decision on whether she was to remain there, transfer to another facility, or be discharged for home-based care,” she said. 

By then, Kandie’s cumulative medical expenses had hit slightly over Sh5 million but with the help of NHIF and their cash contributions, it dropped to Sh3.4 million.

Koech claimed Kandie’s husband vanished after she was admitted to hospital.

“We couldn’t trace her husband only to learn later that he had remarried and deserted their home. We also established that vital documents such as birth certificates had been destroyed,” said Koech.

When the family realised that the bill was spiralling, they opted to have her taken care of at home.

“To have her discharged, I surrendered the title deed for a piece of land in Rongai registered under my husband’s name. Her condition improved greatly but we lost her in January 2021,” she said.

Koech said some of her siblings had washed their hands of the bill.

“My first-born sister and I have been struggling to settle the bill. In August last year, we raised Sh445,000 in a fundraiser and were left with a Sh2.9 million debt,” said Koech. 

She said the possibility of her losing the land given as surety has brought tension in her own family. 

“My husband and I have been having issues every time the hospital calls demanding their money or threatening to auction the land,” she said.

Koech’s elder sister, Joyce Bore, said Kandie’s ordeal left her mentally tortured.

“I stayed with her in hospital for a year. I became accustomed to the beeping sounds of machines in the ward that still ring in my head to date. We were drained financially and are now experiencing strained relations with our siblings,” said Bore.

Bore also took in one of her nieces who is still in school. Life has been tough given she is aged and only engages in small-scale farming. 

“Kandie’s firstborn daughter got married immediately after school out of frustration while another one stays with our mother,” said Bore. 

The hospital, in a statement, said it had given the family enough time to plan for the payment but little progress was forthcoming.

“This is an old medical bill and we need finances to run the hospital too. We are ready to engage the family if they have a repayment plan. We have been kind and patient with them,” NNH said in a statement.