Set clear laws on medical bills

Friday, October 22nd, 2021 00:00 |
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe. Photo/D/Alex Mburu

The clash between the National Assembly Committee on Health and the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council (KPMDC) on the detaining of patients and bodies in hospitals over unpaid bills has unveiled an important aspect of the situation that has beleaguered a number of Kenyans: lack of clear law and policies on the issue.

Over the years, Kenyans have been exposed to high hospital bills, some of which they have not been able to pay.

Consequently, their loved ones have been detained in hospital, accruing even more expenses.

It has not been strange to hear stories of families sneaking into hospitals to “steal” bodies of their friends and relatives for burial.

While the government has been clear that it is illegal and unethical to detain patients, the question is: Who will cater for the medical bills if hospitals released the patients and how hospitals would cover expenses used to care for the patients and the dead?

Such gaps in policy create confusion and need to be addressed as soon as possible. For starters, there is a need to regulate medical charges to protect Kenyans from being exploited.

In September, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said the ministry is in the process of creating such a policy. In that case, the process should be hastened to avoid such scenarios.

Frequent medical appeals across media, including social media, indicate that many Kenyans are unable to afford medical care for themselves and their loved ones, highlighting the high premium of such an essential service and human right.

Worse, having to fight for a loved one’s body from an institution takes a toll on a grieving family.

There needs to be more awareness created on the Universal Healthcare cover to help citizens not only understand but also sign up for the cover to avoid huge out-of-pocket payments in case of illness, accidents and emergencies.   

Parliament must also be at the forefront to come up with and pass laws that ease medical situations of their constituents. 

They should also champion affordable healthcare for all and support the establishment and equipping of public medical facilities to encourage their constituents to take advantage of their services. 

The government should also walk its talk in reining in medical institutions that disregard the pronouncement on illegal detention of patients.

That way, it would be a lesson for anyone not to go against policy or give Kenyans a hard time.

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