Kenyatta National Hospital is seeking funding from the exchequer to build a prison that will temporarily hold discharged patients who are unable to pay their bills.
Seeking a permanent solution to a problem that has refused to go away, KNH said that the huge number of discharged patients being held at the hospital because they have not paid their bills was affecting service delivery, and they are seeking to put an end to this.
“On average, 10% of our beds are occupied by discharged patients who don’t have money to pay their bills. If we could move these to an inhouse prison built specifically for this purpose, we could create enough space to accommodate an extra 300 patients, as well as lower the operating costs incurred in providing maximum security in the wards.”
The KNH Prison will be bult according to the normal prison standards in Kenya since the aim is to hold people and prevent them from escaping. Already, Kenya Prison Service (KPS) has been contracted to offer the lead consultancy services in building the hospital prison. Although KPS is a correctional service, there is little correction that happens in their facility and therefore they are just a holding service, exactly what KNH needs.
The ethics of a prison hospital is something that few politicians are willing to discuss, considering that they have not funded the hospital or made it easy for Kenyans to access affordable healthcare services.
On its part, KNH says that they need bills to be paid in order to sustain their operations, failure to which could lead to closure of the hospital. “Detaining patients is a great motivation to get them to pay, though not the best thing to do. If we do not do it, uncompensated healthcare services will lead to our demise. This will be a lose-lose situation. A prison is the way out.”
How would a hospital prison look like? Experts have suggested that patients should be allowed to work in the prison in order to cater for their upkeep and the excess money can be used to pay for their medical bill. KNH will explore various options including starting podcasts and YouTube channels for the prisoners.
Other hospitals in Kenya are also likely to follow suit, but private hospitals have an advantage in that they can discriminate on who to admit based on the patient’s financial status. This they do by demanding a hefty deposit before admission, even in the cases where the admission is an emergency.
Looking at the two scenarios, a hospital prison is more humane than denying one admission.
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