Hit And Run Victim Held in Hospital for 111 days, Can't Pay Sh 1M Bil

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Dennis Omondi was hit by a matatu in Nairobi’s CBD on April 1 and was writhing in pain from a broken knee when he was rushed to the hospital.

More than 110 days later, Radiant Hospital has turned into a virtual detention centre because the 28-year-old accountancy student can’t pay the Sh1 million bill.

Amnesty International persuaded the hospital to reduce the bill to about Sh860,000 but it’s still going up because of bed charges.

On Wednesday Amnesty demanded Omondi’s release with a payment plan, saying his detention was illegal.

The rights organisation said it would sue on Omondi’s behalf if necessary.

This is how it unfolded:

After the accident, he was rushed to Guru Nanak Hospital in Pangani but referred to Radiant Hospital in the same area for knee surgery.

The bill for his two-day stay at the private facility was Sh300,000 but it surged by Sh8,000 daily.

A student at the Kenya College of Accountancy, now closed, Omondi told the Star he survived by hustling and doing one-and-off freelance auditing to survive and sustain his studies.

At one point, he said, hospital officials urged him to go to the bank and withdraw all his money to pay the bill – Sh21,000.

Omondi said the hospital kept piling pressure on him to clear the bill, more than Sh1 million in four months.

At that point, he said, the hospital stopped providing any care, including physiotherapy.

He claimed the management sent two armed plainclothes officers to “encourage” him to accept liability for the entire bill and clear it.

Reached for comment, Radiant Group of Hospitals branch manager Amstrong Mutua told the Star, “At this moment, I have no comment.” He ended the call.

Omondi said he had presented a plan to the hospital management, requesting his released. He committed to start paying the bill in installments three months after his recovery.

“I tried my best to convince them to let me go and give me a window of three months up to November, then I would hustle hard and start paying up the bill,” he said.

“I promised in writing to start paying Sh25,000 a month or whatever I could after I recovered because currently I have nothing. They refused,” Omondi added.

The hospital demanded Omondi pay Sh500,000 upfront before he can be released, he said.

"Where can I get this money? I'm really going through a tough time.”

In desperation, Omondi sent text messages nongovernmental organisations, hoping they would help pay the bill.

Only Amnesty International responded, persuading Radiant to reduce the bill to more than Sh860,000.

On Wednesday, Amnesty issued a statement terming the detention and rejection of Omondi’s commitment for repayment as unreasonable, unlawful and a violation of his freedom. 

“We remind ..[the] hospitals that unlawful detention is a contravention of Articles 29 and 39 of the Constitution and the fundamental human rights of patients," AI executive director Houghton Irungu said.

"This 111-day detention infringes on his human dignity, liberty and freedom. It is shocking this would be happening when the country is confronting a pandemic and hundreds of patients with Covid-19 are seeking medical treatment. We demand his release immediately.”

The Constitutional and Human Rights division of the High Court ruled in 2018 that detention of patients by hospitals for inability to clear bills was illegal.

Threatening legal action, Amnesty International said, “Continuing to detain Omondi for charges accrued after he was healthy enough to return home is causing him despair, disillusionment and depression.

"Any further detention will leave..[the] hospitals liable for psychological, mental and emotional trauma. Amnesty International Kenya will be left with no resort but to take further action to secure his release and a reasonable settlement of his case," it said.

(Edited by V. Graham)

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