Hospital detains body over Shs31m bill

Friday July 02 2021
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A health worker attends to a Covid-19 patient in an Intensive Care Unit at Mulago last month. PHOTO/FILE

By Anthony Wesaka

A family has given a private hospital in Kampala until tomorrow to release the body of their loved one or risk litigation.

Through their lawyers, Mr Tamale Tofa and Ms Regina Namata accuse Paramount Hospital on Makerere Hill Road, Kampala, of negligent acts that aggravated the deceased’s condition, leading to her demise last week.

The hospital allegedly detained the body over a Shs31 million bill.

In a July 1 letter, addressed to the hospital management, Mr Joseph Luzige, one of the family’s lawyers, said they had been notified that the corpse had vanished from the morgue.

However, Dr Simon Begumisa, a hospital official, dismissed the accusations.

“You might consult our hospital administrator over the same as I am upcountry, but I know it is a false accusation,” he said yesterday.

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Efforts to reach the administrator were futile as they did not answer our calls.

According to the statement from Mr Luzige, the family accuses the hospital of “gross … professional negligence and abdication of the Hippocratic Oath”.

The family claims the oxygen cylinder serving their patient was removed mid-way and assigned to another patient whom the health workers said was in a more “critical” state.

Mr Luzige said his clients’ patient passed away three days after she was abruptly taken off oxygen.

The family also protested the bill, saying it was exorbitant.

“The figure is so exorbitant, and with utmost respect to your hospital, the said action is equally repugnant to public policy as you are using our clients’ mother’s body/cadaver as an object in the name of commercial ping pong. Bodies are for interment or cremation or other disposal without delay,” Mr Luzige stated.

“Your concern is on the debt from medical services solicited by relatives who are still alive and not the deceased, and there are a plethora of legal ways for binding such relatives to pay the debt. The body ought not to be part of that equation as there is no property in a body, it cannot be offered or held as security for payment of a debt.”

“We, therefore, demand that you release the body of our clients’ mother to us immediately, failure of which we are going to file a case against you in the Civil Division of the High Court to recover the same at your peril, embarrassment and cost. We expect to hear from you by July 3,2021, failure of which, court’s intervention will be sought,” Mr Luzige stated.

The incident comes amid a public outcry about staggering costs that private hospitals charge – an average on Shs5m per day in intensive care unit for treating a Covid-19 patient.

Proprietors of private hospitals last week requested State House’s Anti-Corruption Unit to give them up to Monday to review the cost of treating Covid-19 patients and report to government next week.

Although in principle, the owners of private hospitals resolved to review the charges per day after meeting Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja on Monday to iron out a few things.

They promised that a harmonised position on how much a Covid-19 patient will pay in private facilities would be communicated.

Sued

So far, two law suits have been filed before the High Court in Kampala and Lira, challenging the exorbitant medical bills being charged by private hospitals for Covid-19 patients.

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