For two weeks Joy Blessing has been in Room 7, Ward 4A, the Burns Unit at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).
She was discharged from the paediatric ward late last month, but her mother, Ms Euster Mmochi, says they cannot leave the hospital because she owes the hospital Sh168,000.
“My worry is that the doctor who came to review Joy this morning said she has acquired a viral infection from the environment. This is another burden altogether since she will have to be readmitted,” Ms Mmochi said Monday.
Joy, who turned three on July 28, was walking to school when a motorcyclist hit her.
At KNH, she underwent emergency surgery for severe head trauma, among other serious injuries.
When Joy was brought to the hospital, the doctors removed skin from her thigh and grafted (transplanted) it on her head, a procedure often used to treat wounds.
“I am grateful that my daughter has recovered, but I cannot leave the hospital. She is very playful and I am afraid she will contract more diseases, ”Ms Mmochi said, noting that patients with different diseases are forced to share beds at the patient detention centre.
“Sharing of bed is not good for those whose wounds have not healed. I am appealing to the hospital to release my daughter as I look for money to pay them,” said the 24-year-old mother.
She says that, much as the hospital is taking good care of them by attending to Joy and giving her food, she is not safe, adding that sometimes she is not allowed to attend to her daughter.
She whiles away the time along the corridors with other detainees and goes to the ward at night.
“I am a single mother and sole breadwinner. The longer I am detained here, the worse the situation gets for my family. If they let me go, I’ll be able to get back on my feet and start paying the bill,” said Ms Mmochi, a hotel attendant.
Reached for comment, KNH CEO Thomas Mutie said there are channels at the hospital for solving such cases instead of using the media. “We don’t detain patients.
VIOLATED RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS
I have to investigate why they are still in hospital though she should have contacted the management for assistance,” said Dr Mutie.
Legal experts have previously warned that detaining patients over medical bills violates their rights and freedoms, but the practice continues unabated.
A recent study by UK-based Chatham House noted that Kenya is one of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa where the practice is widespread.
“Patient detention deters healthcare use, increases impoverishment and is a denial of international human rights standards, including the right not to be imprisoned as a debtor and the right to access to medical care,” the study notes.