Public hospital directors risk up to Sh3 million fines for demanding advance payments to admit or treat patients if Parliament passes a proposed law that seeks to ease access to healthcare.
The facilities will also pay a similar fine for detaining patients or dead bodies until their families or next of kin settle the hospital bills.
Public hospitals including the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) and the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH)have been on the spot for detaining patients in a bid to compel their next of kin to pay the medical bills.
Other facilities also demand advance payments before they admit patients or carry out tests, conditions that have seen patients, especially from low-income households, denied treatment.
The fines are contained in the Health (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which seeks to end discriminative services where patients are denied services for failure to make the deposits.
“The Bill seeks to amend the principal act to make it an offence for persons-in-charge of a public health facility to demand of permit demands of payment of advance medical fees as a pre-condition to the provision of medical services,” reads the Bill.
The directors will also be liable to a jail term not exceeding three months if they demand the advance payments or detain dead bodies in the proposed amendments to the Health Act, 2017.
Low-income households have also been forced to fund-raise to settle bills before their kin is released from the hospitals.
The patients are billed for every additional day spent at the hospitals, increasing the burden on those who lack insurance covers.
Patients must show hospital guards a discharge form to prove they’re allowed to leave and even visitors must sometimes surrender their identification cards before seeing patients.
Some patients have also been turned away from the facilities for lack of money to pay for services such as laboratory tests.
The Bill sponsored by Bumula Member of Parliament Mwambu Mambogah comes at a time public hospitals have been on the spot for detaining patients, dead bodies, or denying patients treatment for lack of money.
Detention of the patients has pushed up the hospitals’ bills by hundreds of thousands highlighting the plight of low-income families in their bid to get medical services.