Jeremy snip

Nakuru Speaker Susan Kihika holds the child after the Nakuru County government cleared the hill for his discharge on Tuesday. A lawyer has argued that it was illegal for the hospital to detain the child. Photo: County Government of Nakuru/Facebook.

The War Memorial Hospital that detained a child because his mother could not pay his medical bill went against his rights, a Lawyer has argued. The private hospital in Nakuru County detained a child named Jeremy for more than three months as his mother could not clear a bill for medical services the child received in its intensive care unit (ICU).

It was not until the County Government of Nakuru came to the rescue of the child and paid the bill that the baby was discharged. By then the bill had risen to close to sh600, 000.

It is reported that the hospital had initially declined the baby mother’s offer of presenting a title deed as security for the bill. But even though the child has finally been discharged, a Nakuru Lawyer argues that the hospital should be charged for “illegal detention” of the child.

Posting on a Whatsupp page dubbed ‘Nakuru Analysts’ Njenga Mwangi has said that the hospital contravened the baby’s fundamental rights as enshrined in the constitution.

“The owners of the hospital were in clear breach of the constitution and Baby Jeremy can institute proceedings against the hospital for wrongful detention.”

However for this to happen the mother has to initiate the legal process as the baby’s “next friend” he says.

“Under the hypocritical oath medical and health care givers swear that their primary duty is to save lives.”

According to the lawyer who told Kenya Monitor that he is a member of medico-legal committee of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) the hospital is not allowed to detain the child as it is neither a “prison or a remand facility.”

“You can have a person detained in prison for a period not exceeding six months for a civil debt but only the court can commit the debtor and only if the creditor can proof that the debtor has the capacity to pay and is deliberately refusing to pay or he is about to flee from the jurisdiction of the court.”

A human rights defender in the county has however observed that while the child had the right to be released from the hospital pending the payment of his medical bill, the hospital too had the right to demand for its payment. David Kuri is who is commonly known as Western in Nakuru says that such cases can only be solved through negotiation.

“I have intervened in such cases at several hospitals in Nakuru and we have had to negotiate since the hospital’s administrators need to have good ground to release the patient.”

He said dishonesty is to partly to blame for the hard stand that medical facilities make against patients.

“The hospital should however have done investigations to ascertain whether the child’s mother was unable to pay the bill.”

“As long as the child was not discriminated during the time he was detained at the hospital, what we need to do is to that the well wishers for clearing his bill,” said the award winning human rights defender.

Meanwhile lawyer Njenga Mwangi has said he is ready to offer pro bono services should the child’s mother institute a legal process against the hospital.