• Legislators propose allocation of funds to cater for indigent patients.
• They oppose detention, urge hospitals to pursue bills as civil debts.
A Bill seeking to bar hospitals from detaining treated patients and bodies over pay should specify alternative means of funding for the institutions, MPs have said.
Speaking during a breakfast meeting convened by the Center for Reproductive Rights, MPs want the sponsors of the Bill, Jared Okello (Nyando) and Antony Oluoch (Mathare), to expand the scope of the draft law to enhance its effectiveness.
They also want the proposed law to specify the criteria for identifying those who deserve a waiver of hospital bills.
“Specifying the criteria for selecting those deserving the waiver is key so that the latitude of the Bill is not exploited even by those who are well able to cater for their bills,” Sylvanus Maritim (Ainamoi) said.
“The Bill is a fantastic proposition but I’m only worried that it does not address the fundamental issue, which is that it does not offer any practical solution to the inability of the patients to pay,” Seme MP James Nyikal said.
Nyikal, who sits in the Health committee, said if the Bill is not passed with clear remedies available to hospitals and mortuaries on how to offset their expenses, the managers of the health institutions may resort to ways of circumventing the law, rendering it redundant.
“People are going to find ways of not making diagnoses or admitting patients because they would fear that if they do, they will be forced to find lengthy alternative ways of recovering their monies as patients may not pay,” he said.
His Ndhiwa counterpart Martin Owino, who also sits in the health committee, said the Bill should be expanded to be a money Bill so that the National Assembly can vote more monies to the Health ministry to cater for people who are unable to pay their hospital bills.
Nominated legislator Jacqueline Oduol said the Bill will only be implementable if it has clear guidelines on how the hospitals will recover their monies. “Let’s make it a money Bill in order to make it implementable,” she said.
Teddy Mwambire (Ganze) supported the expansion of the Bill to capture the elements of devolution since healthcare is a fully devolved function.
“We need to see how to rope in senators and governors because the most affected facilities are levels four and five hospitals, detaining most patients at the grassroots level,” he said.
But Okello said the Bill was a needful intervention because hospitals are violating the rights of patients, becoming a law unto themselves.
“Hospitals are turning themselves into police station cells and jails by restricting the movement of people who are unable to pay. Our people should not be punished because they are poor,” he said.
However, on the question of how the facilities will recover their monies after treatment, the Nyando lawmaker said the Bill will require the hospitals and morgues to pursue their unpaid monies as civil debts including by attaching the properties of nonpaying patients.
“Even banks have laid down procedures of recovering defaulted loans and they do not include detaining the defaulter at the banking hall. They can use the courts to recover their monies even through auctioning,” he said.
Okello said the Bill has been approved by Speaker Justin Muturi and the budget office and is due for gazettement.
Other leaders who attended the early morning meeting were Sylanus Osoro (South Mugirango), Thaddeus Nzambia (Kilome), Caleb Amisi (Saboti) and Charles Nguna (Mwingi West).