By Franklin Draku
Kampala Hospital has finally released the body of the late Dr Isma Kizito after reaching an agreement with the family over modalities of payment.
Dr Kizito, 36, died of Covid-19 on Sunday after spending more than two weeks in the hospital.
Prior to the release, the hospital was demanding Shs90 million in arrears, with the family only able to raise Shs20 million in cash.
Sources, who attended yesterday's meeting, said the family reached an agreement with the hospital management after interventions by different people, including government officials.
The family faulted the hospital for detaining the body.
"Since his admission, as family we have been paying a certain amount every day to this hospital totaling to Shs30 million before his death," Mr Hassan Mubiru, the deceased's elder brother, said.
He said they were surprised when the hospital management refused to release the body on Monday for burial.
"As family and friends, we had a meeting on Tuesday morning and raised more than Shs10 million that we paid to hospital, making it to more than Shs40m all together but still they refused to give us the body. We pleaded to Kampala Hospital management to reduce the money to half of the Shs90 million but they refused and this is their fellow doctor," he said.
Mr Mubiru said in Islam, a body is not supposed to be buried with any debt, but this had hit them hard.
Mr Samuel Sekatawa, a friend of the deceased, said the hospital management gave them six months to clear the bills.
Events leading to the release
Ms Betty Nambooze, the Mukono Municipality Member of Parliament, on Monday threatened to invade the hospital after she accused the facility of detaining the body.
She claimed the hospital was demanding Shs90m or the family deposits a land title before the body is released.
"I'm giving this hospital seven hours counting from 12:30am to reconsider their decision... Suppose Isma had survived, would you have required him to pay Shs1 billion? Imagine if you are doing this to a fellow medic, how do you treat non medics?" Ms Nambooze asked.
"I'm on my way to your hospital. I'm going to give myself in so that you retain me and release the body for burial. Meanwhile, you will continue confining me until Mukono people raise the Shs90m," she added.
The Mukono legislator stormed the hospital, demanding the body, drawing the attention of the Ministry of Health officials, including the Permanent Secretary, Dr Diana Atwine, and the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council.
A meeting was called in which the two parties reached a compromise on how the remaining balance would be paid.
Mr Sameer Saheed, the chief operating officer Kampala Hospital, yesterday denied the allegations of detaining the body over nonpayment.
Mr Sameer said at the time of the death, it was already late and the family requested that the body be kept at the hospital mortuary because it could not be buried the same day.
"Yes, we had admitted the patient here and the bill was issued to them. They paid Shs30m and the patient died at a later time of the day. It was not possible to bury him on the same day. The relatives agreed that we keep the body and they would pick it on Tuesday, which we agreed with them," he said.
Mr Sameer, however, said they were surprised to hear different stories that they had detained the body over money.
He also said the brother of the late came with an armed officer claiming for the body and wanted the bills to be written off.
"The brother came here and wanted to pay Shs5 million and that we should write off the remaining balance, even when we had incurred a lot of expenses on him (deceased) already. After that we started getting calls from different people, including the Ministry of Health and we started wondering how the story had changed," he said.
According to Mr Sameer, when the family came back yesterday morning, they held a meeting and the family paid Shs20m, adding that they agreed that the balance of Shs63 million be cleared within six months.
"The honourable (Ms Nambooze) came and made commitment that she would undertake to pay the money. She wrote and we attached the bill. This will be our only defence and they went with the body. From our side, we have no issues and we have been cooperating with the family," he said.
Mr Sameer said there would be no reason why they would detain a body when both parties were committed to helping the situation. Ms Nambooze later on acknowledged the agreement, saying they will raise the money and clear the bills as agreed upon.
She, however, said government has no power over private facilities since the same facilities are owned by people who have crippled the government ones.
"The best I have got is to make an undertaking to pay to mobilise the family and friends to pay the money within the next six months...And this "favour" is because Dr Diana Atwine has assisted me to talk to the owners of the hospital, otherwise it was set to hold Dr Kizito's body or take his house starting with depositing his land titles with signed transfer forms," Ms Nambooze said.
Private facilities on the spot
For the last several months, private hospitals have been on spot for exorbitant prices charged for admissions in their facilities.
Many patients and their relatives have accused the private health facilities of extorting money and turning the pandemic into a money heist.
However, the owners have denied the claims and said the costs of operating the facilities are high, in addition to exorbitant taxes they pay to the government. They have asked government to offer them tax waivers so that their costs also reduce.