Activists have sued a hospital before the High Court in Kampala for continuous detention of a 14-year-old boy over failure to pay an outstanding medical bill of Shs2.9m.
Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) say the actions of Jaro hospital in Kaliwajjala, near Kampala, are illegal.
“The respondent’s (Jaro hospital) act of detaining the 2nd applicant (patient) pending the payment of outstanding medical bills is a violation of the child’s right to personal liberty under Article 23 of the Constitution,” CEHURD states in its law suit filed yesterday.
It adds: “The respondent’s health facility is not an authorised place of detention under Article 23 (2) of the Constitution.”
According to court documents, Raymond Mugerwa was taken to Jaro hospital after he was hit by a speeding car in July.
This publication understands that after receiving the treatment, the boy’s parents were unable to clear the medical bill, which later accumulated.
The father of the patient, Mr Robert Sentongo, reportedly requested for a referral to a public health facility, but the health workers declined to release him on grounds that he was in critical condition.
“…after a successful operation and treatment, the respondents issued the 1st applicant, a medical bill of Shs4.4m on August 6. The 3rd applicant (father of the patient) with support of good Samaritans, raised a portion of the medical bill amounting to Shs1.5m, the respondents (Jaro hospital and its director, James Odong), insisted on the full amount and instead resorted to detaining the child, the 2nd applicant at their health facility till to date,” the court document reads in part.
It adds: “The respondents’ act of detaining the 2nd applicant is a violation of his rights to health, personal liberty and freedom from cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment guaranteed in the Constitution.”
Through their lawyers of Springs Advocates and Tangle Advocates, the health activists want the High Court to order Jaro hospital to release and award the patient general damages.
In an interview with this newspaper earlier this week, the hospital management denied detaining the teenager.
“All those allegations are false, we are not detaining anyone here because this is a hospital. However, it’s only fair that the father of the boy needs to clear the bill before we can discharge the boy,” the director of the health facility, Dr James Odongo, said.
He added: “The boy was rushed here [in critical condition] and we were able to save his life without asking for a coin, now that the boy is well, the family is refusing to clear the bill.”
Dr Odongo said the hospital administration had a meeting with the father.
“We are ready to discharge the boy but we are just waiting on his father to fulfill his promise and put the proposed payment plan in writing, which he hasn’t done yet,” he said.