Court orders DNA test for baby detained by RosWell Hospital over Shs4m bill

Saloome Aturinda (R) gestures as she looks at the baby in question at court in Kampala on August 30, 2023. PHOTO/JULIET KIGONGO

What you need to know:

  • On Wednesday, justice Nambayo adjourned the case to September 5.

High Court in Kampala has ordered for a DNA test on a baby who was allegedly detained by a hospital in Uganda’s capital after parents reportedly failed to clear a Shs4million medical bill following child delivery.

The parents, through their lawyer Geoffrey Turyamusiima, said they were not sure if the baby handed to them -after the detention by the Roswell Women and Children’s Hospital- was their actual child born about three months ago.

“The mother (Saloome Aturinde) having failed to identify the baby, it is hereby directed that the baby, its mother and father (Bridgers Alinda Mugenyi) have DNA done at the Government Analytical Laboratory in Wandegeya (GAL) at the expense of the hospital,” Justice Esta Nambayo ruled.  

Court had early August 30, 2023 directed order Loving Hearts Babies Home where the baby was in custody, and the hospital to produce the child in court with its food on Wednesday afternoon without fail.

When the court convened in the afternoon, Turyamusiima sought a court order for the DNA “in the interest of justice at the cost of the hospital that has kept the baby away from its mother.”

But hospital lawyer Mukiibi Semakula objected suggesting that DNA costs be shared by the health facility and the couple.

Semakula also argue that the probation officer to whom the baby was given was in court, further urging that the complaining mother meets the hospital bills.

Trial judge Nambayo overruled Semakula’s submission reasoning that the defence lawyer was far ahead of court by going into the merits of the case.

“I will not tell the family to meet that cost. I do not know if you understand the effect of taking the baby away from the mother at the most delicate time. It is recommended that babies feed on breast milk for six months, but it was prematurely detained. At worst, they should have detained the father or the mother and baby,” justice Nambayo remarked before she also questioned the actuality of the child being the real one.

Meantime, when Loving Hearts Babies Home was tasked to explain how the baby ended up in their custody, yet both its parents are still alive, a social worker at the children’s home explained that Roswell Hospital took the baby to Central Police Station (CPS) and reported a case of abandonment.

“…and this is when the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) probation officer contacted us,” said Gerald Sande who works at the children’s home.

In the lawsuit filed before the High Court Civil Division in Kampala, the parents seek court declaration that detaining their baby pending payment of the outstanding medical bills has subjected the little one to inhumane, cruel and degrading treatment.

"The respondent's (hospital) action of denying the 2nd applicant (Aturinde) access to breastfeed or even deliver pumped breast milk to the baby (1st applicant) is inhuman, cruel, degrading treatment and has subjected the first applicant to all health risks associated with not breastfeeding, and the mother to psychological torture," the court documents read in part.

The complainants in the case, Saloome Aturinde and husband Bridgers Alinda Mugenyi follow proceedings as their lawyer Geoffrey Turyamusiima addresses journalists in Kampala on August 30, 2023. PHOTO/JULIET KIHONGO

The applicants also make case that the hospital is not entitled to any payment of medical bills for the period the baby was under illegal detention noting that allowing such would be condoning an illegality. 

On Wednesday, justice Nambayo adjourned the case to September 5.