A family in Nakuru is asking for help to have the body of their kin released from a hospital over an unpaid bill that keeps increasing.
The body has been lying in the hospital's mortuary for over one year and the bill is now Sh5.5 million.
Their relative, Humphrey Mwai died in the private hospital in October last year while undergoing treatment for Covid-related complications. He was 70.
His widow, Eunice Nyambura, said Mwai was taken ill in September but they could not find a bed at a nearby public health facility so they took him to the private hospital.
"We first took him to St Joseph’s Hospital where he was admitted for a week. However, doctors said he needed more oxygen which they didn’t have. We had to transfer him after settling the bill at the hospital,” Nyambura said.
The family then took him to the private hospital in Nakuru town where he was admitted for a month.
“He was put on oxygen but his condition worsened. He died on October 6 leaving behind a bill of Sh5.5 million,” said Nyambura.
"I don't have that kind of money. I have been left on my own after my husband's extended family distanced itself from this matter. None of my three children has a job."
An invoice from the hospital shows that Mwai's family was charged Sh2.09 million for oxygen therapy, Sh696,365 for drugs, and Sh381,000 for nursing care, among other charges.
After deducting Sh90,000 deposited before Mwai was admitted, the hospital wants the balance of Sh5,512,640 paid.
"We can raise that amount from what we make from our small farm and casual jobs. It is not even enough for our daily needs. Not even the local community has helped us. I just wish I could lay my husband to rest and get closure," she said.
"The situation is getting worse with the ever-piling mortuary charge. The hospital's management has said we have to find a way to raise the money, even if it is part of it before they can release the body. It has been a struggle."
As of July 15, 2022, the mortuary bill was Sh385,000.
The hospital's director Muriithi Kimani said they are aware of the family's struggles. "We know what the family is going through. We know they are struggling to raise the money but it is not our wish to detain the body," Kimani said.
"We need the money to keep the hospital running. We have told the family to raise part of the funds then we can negotiate on how they can pay the balance. Unfortunately, there has been no progress."
Nyambura's neighbour, James Mwangi, said the huge bill has left the family in a bad place.
"The family was not prepared for this. In over 30 years, Mwai never got ill to the point of being hospitalised," Mwangi said.
"But Covid-19 came and it happened as it did. It is a difficult moment for them, I pray for the family."
Nyambura says she is unable to move on since her husband's death.
"I have never known peace since he died. I wish we can have the opportunity to give him a decent burial,” she said. "We can’t afford to pay the bill and it disturbs me that his body is lying in a mortuary for over a year."