Ugandan hospitals detain mothers over bills during COVID-19 lockdown

Sun, 13 Jun 2021 Source: monitor.co.ug

The impact of the lockdown imposed by the Ugandan government to stop the spread of Covid-19 has hit hard expectant mothers across the country.

The restrictions that have been in force since March last year have made access to health services both difficult and unaffordable.

Prossy Namakula, a resident of Nkonkonjeru Town Council, was last month detained at St Francis Mission Hospital in Buikwe District after she had delivered her baby.

While detained, Namakula says she could not afford proper meals and care for her baby and depended on handouts from other patients.

She says she tried all ways to leave the hospital to get relief and look for money to pay her bill but in vain.

“The cost of treatment left me with nothing. Presently, I live with lots of fear and receive threats of imprisonment for unpaid loans from my village saving groups,” she says.

Namakula says she had to flee her village and live with a relative, which makes her uncomfortable since she wants to enjoy her rights and take proper care of her child.

Elizabeth Atori, a legal officer with Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), a non-governental organisation, says the practice of detaining patients in hospitals undermines women’s rights, including their right to dignity and right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment.

She says they have so far reached out to 16 women who have been detained in both Buikwe and Kumi districts over unpaid medical bills.

Indeed, the plight of Namakula is not isolated as many more women have faced hospital detention.

Annet Chandiru, who was also found detained at St Francis Mission Hospital in Buikwe District in March, says she was held for three months after she delivered her child.

“I am literally a prisoner here. I am not allowed to go past the hospital gate and if I need anything from outside, I must send the security guard,” Chandiru told Saturday Monitor then.

Chandiru is a resident of Nkonkonjeru Town Council, but the nearest public health facility is a Health Centre II, which does not offer antenatal services.

Similarly, a 16-year-old girl who had gone to seek medical care at the same facility in March, says she had no way of raising the money to clear her hospital bill and she was also detained.

She says she could not even afford a meal while in hospital and the facility could not give her food, leaving her to survive on handouts.

However, Edgar Olweny, the spokesperson of St Francis Mission Hospital, told Saturday Monitor last week that they do not detain women but only keep them around until they clear the bills.

“Since we are a private institution, we even inform police that so and so is being kept around the hospital premises and is looking for money,” Olweny says.

Source: monitor.co.ug