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Newborn detained at KNH over bill

Health & Science
 Sophia Moraa with her two-month-old baby Abigail (also inset) who was discharged on December 28, but the hospital has not released her because of an outstanding bill. [PHOTOS: WILBERFORCE OKWIRI/STANDARD]

NAIROBI: The little angel has defied many odds to be alive. She looks fragile and innocent, but a fighter nonetheless. She lifts her tiny legs and hands, unaware that despite winning the battle of being born too soon, she faces another hurdle. Nine week old baby Abigail Mwende has been detained at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) because of a Sh322,675 bill for exactly two months now.

“I gave birth to Mwende on November 23 last year and she was 1.2kgs. She was very tiny, but she looked like a fighter. I knew she would pull through,” the mother Sophia Moraa shares.

The baby came sooner than expected because her mother’s blood pressure had shot up necessitating an emergency caesarian section. Ms Moraa went for a routine pregnancy check-up at the hospital’s private wing on November 8 last year and was admitted to monitor her blood pressure, which was uncontrollably high, posing a risk for both mother and unborn child.

“After three weeks of monitoring, the doctors decided to do a CS to save my life and that of the baby. After that, the baby was taken to the incubator where she stayed until she gained the recommended weight,” Moraa recalls.

Baby Abigael thrived so well and she was discharged on December 28 last year but was detained in hospital because the family could not offset her bill. The mother cleared her Sh370,000 bill but the baby’s bill, which is basically the incubator fees was too high for the family.

“Abigael and I had separate bills. NHIF paid Sh70,000 while my husband’s medical insurance settled Sh30,000. We settled the balance using our savings,” she says.

According to the hospital bill seen by The Standard on Sunday, as of December 28, Sh42,000 is recorded as daily bed charges for the incubator for 28 days, Sh17,000 for daily bed charges at the newborn unit for 17 days, Sh243,800 as charges for nursing procedures. Other miscellaneous charges come to about Sh80,000.

The bill also showed an NHIF rebate of Sh94,500 and one of the specialised medics at the referral hospital had waived their professional fees on humanitarian grounds.

However, Moraa and her husband could not raise the required amount forcing the hospital to transfer them to the general ward.

Moraa, a small-scale business woman in Nairobi’s Githurai 45, is now pleading with the hospital. “I just want to take the baby home and take good care of her. I cannot afford to clear the bill for now but I will do my best to clear it slowly. Keeping the baby in the hospital environment yet she is not sick is unhealthy because it exposes the baby to infections,” Moraa says. “If we had land, a car or something valuable, we would give the hospital the ownership documents as a security to allow us to take the baby home.”

Moraa, and her husband, a waiter at a city hotel, say they are doing their best to mobilise funds from friends, family and well wishers.

Meanwhile, as the family tries to devise ways of raising the outstanding money, the bill, continues to rise.

KNH acting Corporate and Communications Manager Kibet Mengich says the hospital is aware that there are cases where patients have been detained for failing to clear their medical bills.

Mengich says stringent payment terms have to be enforced at the general and private wings, otherwise operations will stall. “The patient and her family are informed on the admission policy with the assurance that they will meet the cost of their treatment, less the cost of NHIF and other forms of insurance,” says Mengich. However, he says failure to clear bills upon discharge is handled by the Credit Control team.

Patients admitted at the general wing have access to a social worker who assesses their ability to pay the bills and advises the hospital accordingly.

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