Hospital Imprisons New Mothers Unable to Pay Medical Bills in Kenya

For poor pregnant women living in Kenya giving birth to a child should be a blessing, but for many women who are unable to pay for services provided by some hospitals it is turning into a nightmare.

Reports from Kenya reveal that the director of the Pumwani Maternity Hospital, which is located in a poor area of the capital city of Nairobi, has been essentially imprisoning mothers who are unable to pay for the medical treatment they receive while giving birth.

Lazarus Omondi insists that it is the only way he will be able to keep the hospital open and servicing the needs of those who enter its doors. Otherwise, without funds he would be forced to close leaving poor residents with few healthcare options.

"We hold you and squeeze you until we get what we can get. We must be self-sufficient … the hospital must get money to pay electricity, to pay water. We must pay our doctors and our workers," Omondi told AP during an interview at the hospital.

"They stay there until they pay. They must pay … if you don't pay the hospital will collapse," he added.

Omondi revealed that during an average week roughly 350 women give birth and the medical bills going unpaid are having a serious impact on the hospital.

But women who frequent the hospital are among the most poor in the nation with most living on just a few dollars a day. Given that some hospital bills can range from $50 to $150 it is no surprise that these mothers would have a hard time paying the hospital bills, let alone try and provide food for their children.

The New York based, Center for Reproductive Rights, recently filed a lawsuit in the High Court of Kenya, claiming that the hospital is illegally detaining patients who are unable to pay their medical bills. The suit named the hospital, the attorney general, the City Council of Nairobi and two government ministries as defendants in the case.