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Hospitals holding 300 patients, 391 bodies over bills

 National Assembly Health Committee Chairperson Sabina Chege (L) with Health PS Susan Mochache (R) after she appeared before the Committee at Parliament. [Boniface Okendo/Standard]

At least 300 patients and 391 bodies are detained by 11 hospitals over bills amounting to Sh6.7 billion.

Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) leads the pack by illegally holding 184 patients and 387 bodies over Sh5.69 billion bills.

The facility is demanding Sh5.9 million from bereaved families before they can be allowed to bury the bodies while at the same time holding patients over Sh5.1 billion.

Kakamega County Referral is holding 56 patients over Sh3.3 million, Nakuru County Referral is holding 15 over Sh850, 780, Tabaka Mission is detaining 16 over Sh590, 764 while Thika Level 5 is demanding Sh308, 922 from eight patients.

New Kimilili Medical Clinic is owed Sh108,780 by five patients, Crystal Cottage Hospital and Medical Clinic is also demanding Sh505,625 for medical services offered to five patients, North Kinangop Catholic is detaining three patients over Sh66,651 bills and Kagio Nursing Home is demanding Sh90,000 before they can release a patient.

Pandya Hospital Mombasa is holding three bodies over Sh2.55 million while Tabaka Mission Hospital is holding a body over Sh68, 850.

Moi Teaching and Referral is demanding Sh1 billion from an unknown number of patients.

The revelation was made by Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache when she appeared before the Health Committee of the National Assembly to respond to Mathare MP Antony Oluoch who had raised concerns that medical facilities were holding patients illegally for non-payment of medical bills.

Mr Oluoch asked the ministry to inform hospitals that it is against the Constitution to detain patients.

He told the ministry and hospitals to come up with means of making people to pay bills without resorting to detention.

The High Court declared detention of patients illegal last year.

Yesterday, the PS told the Sabina Chege-led team that detention of patients is widespread in both public and private hospitals.

She said the ministry had established a special team to go around the country and investigate cases of illegal detention for action to be taken against hospitals.

The PS said out of the over 3,000 hospital across the country, 216 have shared data with the ministry over the matter.

“To establish the extent of the problem, the ministry has constituted a special technical team to investigate whether patients are being held in confined rooms for unpaid bills,” she added.

The report is expected within a month. The ministry will then take “legal and regulatory measures” against any hospital that will be found culpable.

“To address the accumulation of patient bills in hospitals, the ministry communicates to relevant hospitals to waive the bills or enter into a credit facility for cases that are brought to our attention,” Mochache said.

The ministry is planning to develop guidelines to standardise waiver systems and credit facilities in both public and private hospitals.

Centre for Reproductive Rights said the admission by the ministry that the issue was widespread is a move in the right direction.

“As we continue to pursue a legal framework to address these cases of detention, we hope all health facilities will now act in accordance with the Constitution to end the illegality,” said the organisation’s Regional Director Evelyn Opondo.

Nyando MP Jared Okello is pushing for amendment of the law so that health facilities can fined Sh5 million for detaining patients.

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