The Health Amendment Bill 2023, which seeks to fine healthcare facilities Ksh1 million if they keep a patient or a deceased body to force the family to pay unpaid medical bills, was introduced on Tuesday, March 28 by Kirinyaga County Woman Representative Jane Njeri Maina.
When she appeared before the National Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee in Nairobi, which is chaired by Kiharu Member of Parliament Ndindi Nyoro, the lawmaker defended the new measure.
Njeri contended that hospitals shouldn’t hold the bodies because of unpaid bills because Africans have a strong attachment to their deceased relations.
“We know that Africans have an attachment to their dead. We know that Africans are not people who will say that because they cannot afford the bill, let us leave the dead body in the hospital. A hospital is like any other debtor. “They know very well the psychological attachment that Africans have to dead bodies. So they take mere advantage of that fact to ensure they don’t release the dead body to the family to be laid to rest,” she stated.
She maintained that it is unfair for medical facilities to hold dead bodies in custody because they cannot be purchased or sold. They cannot be held up as collateral for financial benefit.
She continued by saying that the only reason hospitals keep dead bodies is to compel the families to pay the hospital expenses because, in the end, they release the body.
She claims that this equates to psychological torture for the bereaved families and points out that most of those who couldn’t pay their medical bills came from low-income families.
In her measure, Maina made the case that hospitals ought to be compensated by the federal government.
The national government will allot funds to national referral hospitals to address the shortage if the proposed legislation is approved.