Patient sues IHK over detention

Rose Obiga attends to her brother Patrick Obiga at IHK. Courtesy PHOTO

KAMPALA- The High Court in Kampala has been asked to order International Hospital Kampala (IHK) to release a patient it has detained for one and-a-half weeks over unpaid medical bills of Shs19.5m.

The patient, Mr Patrick Obiga, submitted to court that he found himself admitted at the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit after he was involved in an accident at 2am on August 4.
The civil case against IHK was instituted by Mr Obiga’s sister Rose Obiga and Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), a civil society organisation.
According to court records, upon completing treatment, Mr Obiga paid Shs20m of the overall medical bill of Shs39m and asked the hospital to allow him pay the balance of Shs19.5m while he was at home.

However, according to Mr Obiga’s sister, the hospital’s billing manager, Ms Faith Kandere, told the family that their patient would not be released unless they produced a land title and two post-dated cheques as security for payment of the outstanding balance.

Bill growing bigger
In their case documents in court, the family contends that the longer the hospital continues to hold Mr Obiga, the more his medical bills accumulate.

“I was informed by the administrator of International Hospital Kampala that Patrick Obiga could not be released from the hospital until we had settled the balance of the bills pending from his treatment in its entirety. Up to now, the administration of the hospital has refused to release Patrick from hospital,” reads in part Rose Obiga’s affidavit in support of the petition.

“I and Patrick Obiga are committed to paying the outstanding balance from the medical bills but need time to mobilise the finances since it was a sudden occurrence for which we were not prepared financially...” she adds.
The sister further explains in the affidavit that she has consulted her lawyers and that they told her IHK has no powers to imprison or detain her brother even if he has not yet paid the outstanding balance on his medical bills.
Court has allocated the case file to High Court judge Lydia Mugambe who has set next Tuesday to hear the family’s application seeking orders to IHK to release Mr Obiga immediately.

Too many unpaid bills
When this newspaper contacted Dr Ian Clarke, the IHK proprietor, he said he did not have facts about the incident but said he had lost hundreds of millions of shillings in failed payments of balance on medical bills by patients.

“How are we going to operate as a hospital since we are losing hundreds of millions of shillings to patients who go away without completing the payment of the medical bills. Patients should pay their medical bills...” an audibly agitated Dr Clarke said by telephone last evening.
Dr Clarke said nonpayment of medical bills by patients has become a big problem to the hospital before referring this newspaper to Ms Brenda Naluyima, the hospital spokesperson.

Efforts to reach the spokesperson were futile, however, while speaking to NTV yesterday, Ms Naluyima said the hospital was surprised by the action of the family since negotiations were ongoing, adding that as a hospital, all they want from the patient was a commitment to pay the balance.