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Patient dies after accumulating Sh40 million hospital bill

A family in Thika is appealing to the government to intervene and compel a private hospital in Nairobi to waive a Sh40 million hospital bill accrued after their relative died while battling a strange neural disease for the last 17 months.

Grace Mungai 54, former teacher at the Thika School for the blind for close to 30 years died at the Nairobi West Hospital last week after battling Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) which left the family financially drained and unable to raise any more money.

The condition is a neuron disease that wastes the victim’s muscles and eats into the nerves with no known cure and no effective treatment to halt or reverse its progression.

In the bill shown to KNA by Joseph Mungai Kariha, husband to the deceased, the Hospital is now demanding for 80 percent cash and 20 per cent security to release the body for burial.

The distraught husband said that the family is physically, emotionally and financially drained and cannot raise anything else as they have exhausted all avenues of raising funds for the last 17 months.

“We have already paid the hospital Sh2.5 million in cash, the AON Insurance paid Sh1.6 million, NHIF Sh 500,000, notwithstanding other undertakings that family and friends have put in for the last 17 months when my wife was in the ICU,” lamented Kariha.

He said that the family cannot progress with funeral arrangements as the hospital cannot release the body without paying 80 percent of the pending, amounting to about Sh30 million.

“We are appealing for the hospital to release the body for burial, since we cannot afford any more money and further holding the body in the mortuary, will only accruing extra charges,” pleaded the distressed husband.

Kariha who was accompanied by their only child Cendrick Mungai aged 24, said that out of the Sh38 million they are required to pay, oxygen cost is Sh17 million, bed Sh7.7 million, pharmacy Sh5.9 million while Sh4.7 million is set supposed to carter for doctors fee amongst other charges.
He said that when the wife was admitted to Nairobi West Hospital in August 2017, medics in public hospitals were on strike and attempts to have her transferred to Kenyatta Hospital later on were futile even after writing to the Health CS for intervention.

“We travelled to China in March 2018 to seek for alternative mode of treatment as there is only one drug that is currently used to treat patients with ALS and it cost over Sh240, 000 per dose but we had to come back after two months after our medical visa expired,” Kariha further
explained.

The couple’s  son narrated how the family helplessly watched as the mother wasted and died a  painful death in the ICU where medics could do nothing to alleviate the pain.

“I am appealing to my mother’s employer, the TSC and government at large to chip in and negotiate with the hospital to release her body so that we can accord her a decent burial,” he said.

KNUT Executive Secretary Thika Branch Joe Ngige Mungai said, “We are going to appeal to other teachers under the union’s umbrella to come together and redeem their colleague’s body from the Nairobi West Hospital Mortuary.”

Contacted for comment, area MP Engineer Patrick Wainaina pointed out that the bill was too big for any individual family and blamed the hospital for not advising them accordingly.

“For terminal conditions especially with rare diseases like ALS the hospital should have facilitated the family to settle for home-based care instead of keeping the patient in the ICU with no cure or reprieve,” he said.

However, he promised to pick up the matter with the Parliamentary Health Committee to see whether anything can be done to help the family adding that the hospital should consider writing off the bill considering the amount of pain the family has had to deal with.

Last year, the only known case of ALS was highlighted after Steve Hopkins, a renowned scientist succumbed to the debilitating condition after battling it for 50 years.

There is no known cure to the condition with medics giving victims less than 3 years to live upon diagnosis.

By Lucy Wangai

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