As the doctors' strike enters its third month, a number of Kenyans have found themselves in a bind after seeking treatment at private hospitals only to incur high hospital bills that they are unable to pay.
One such family is that of Mwajuma Juma, whose son’s body is still being detained at Nakuru’s Mediheal Hospital.
Ms Mwajuma told the Nation that her 25-year-old son Shaban Juma died on Friday while receiving dialysis treatment, leaving behind a Sh352,000 hospital bill.
“When my son died I asked the hospital to release his body to me for burial since I’m a Muslim and as our custom, he should be buried the same day.
“The doctors told me to pay some money and I did pay Sh153,000. But when I went on Monday morning to claim his body, the hospital management refused to release the body,” said Ms Juma, a vegetable vendor.
In letters seen by the Nation, the family had committed to paying the outstanding amount in instalments once the body had been released.
In another letter, the family, through Mahmud Abdul, the Imam of Bondeni mosque, explained to the hospital that the body needed to be burial as soon as possible in accordance to Sharia law.
“We are planning on holding a fundraiser on February 11 for the remaining amount. All we want for now is the body of my son to be released,” a distraught Ms Juma said.
In an interview, Nakuru Mediheal General Manager Santosh Devaraj said he had given the family a Sh50,000 discount from the total bill and that the hospital had done its best.
“Previously we used to allow relatives to bring written agreements but most of them would go back on their word. So now we are forced to undertake strict measures for the sake of running the hospital,” he said.
The story is the same for Richard Chege, 32, who has found himself confined at St Luke’s Hospital in Eldoret because his family has failed to raise Sh600,000 required to fully settle his medical bill.
Mr Chege, the father of a six-year-old daughter, was admitted to the hospital in September last year after a vein raptured in his brain.
According to his mother-in-law, Lilian Kiarie, the total bill was 1.2 million but the family raised only half of it.
Ms Kiarie said her son-in-law experienced painful headaches shortly after his wife died in April 2016 due to acute diabetes.
“One Saturday afternoon he fainted outside his house and on arrival at Evans Hospital in Nakuru, the doctors confirmed that a vein had raptured in his brain and that he needed an immediate operation,” she said.
Mr Chege was referred to Kenyatta National Hospital and later to Moi Referral and Teaching Hospital in Eldoret, but the waiting list was too long and they opted for a private health facility.
The family is now appealing to well-wishers to help them settle the remaining Sh600,000 to secure the release of the patient, who has been in hospital for four months.
Paul Maina Kariuki said his mother died at Nakuru Mediheal Hospital a month ago while undergoing treatment and left a bill of Sh800,000.
Mr Maina claims the family held a fundraiser but managed to collect only Sh300,000.
He said the remaining balance of Sh500,000 is increasing daily as the body lies at the hospital’s mortuary.