The funeral home at Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital (KUTRRH) has finally released Kelvin Maina’s body after holding it for approximately eight months due to unpaid payments.
The body was released unconditionally after a case was brought in the Ruiru Magistrates Court against the government-owned institution for holding the deceased’s remains as security.
Maina was transported to the hospital after sustaining head injuries in an accident on the Eastern Bypass. He died on April 2, 2022, while receiving treatment, leaving an unpaid hospital debt of Ksh.1.3 million.
His wife and two small children attempted to raise funds by reaching out to friends and family, but their attempts were met with a brick wall.
According to Patrick Mugo, a close family member, Maina’s family was planning a mock burial if the hospital refused to release the body.
“This family has been through a lot; the bill has already risen to close to Ksh.2 million, and we have tried to organize WhatsApp groups to raise the money, but we have been unable.” They had given up hope and were considering a sham burial, according to Mr. Mugo.
After suing the hospital on behalf of the family, Kirinyaga Woman Representative Jane Njeri Maina, a lawyer, was able to persuade the hospital to release the remains.
“They recognized they would lose the case anyhow because the law states unequivocally that the body cannot be held as a security.” “It is illegal,” Ms. Maina stated.
This was used as a case study by the first-time legislator as she prepared a Healthcare Amendment Bill, which is now in the hands of the Speaker of the National Assembly.
She stated that the Bill amends Section 7 of the Healthcare Act, which prohibits both public and private hospitals from keeping dead remains as security.
“I will be tabling a Bill in Parliament; it is with the Speaker awaiting commitment to the health committee so that it may be taken to the House floor.” According to the bill, hospitals holding bodies as security will be a criminal punishable by a Ksh.3 million fine or six months in jail,” Ms. Maina stated.
In its defense, Kenyatta University hospital stated that it had waived debts of Ksh.140 million for patients who are unable to pay, but that this cannot be done for everyone.
Prof. Olive Mugenda, the hospital’s board chairperson, urged Kenyans to sign up for NHIF coverage to help them pay off large hospital expenditures.
“Unfortunately, we cannot waive for everyone; if you look at the invoices, they are all commodities that we spend money on, so it becomes extremely difficult to waive everything,” Prof. Mugenda added.
The deceased’s burial preparations are currently ongoing, and he will be laid to rest at his remote home in Kirinyaga County.