Court Rules Hospitals Detaining Patients Over Unpaid Bills Illegal

Court Rules Hospitals Detaining Patients Over Unpaid Bills Illegal

The High Court on Tuesday ruled that it was illegal for a hospital to detain a patient over unpaid bills.

The court through, Judge Wilfrida Okwany, ruled that it was a violation of a patient’s rights for a hospital to decline to release them over accumulated medical bills.

She stated that a hospital has the right to demand payment of services but holding the patient is not one of the ways to recover the debt citing that it is an infringement to freedom of movement.

Judge Wilfrida Okwany

According to Okwany, there was no law that stated the hospital has the right to detain a patient.

“I am not convinced that an illegal detention of a patient is one of the avenues for the recovery of a debt within our legal system, because the question that will always arise is for how long the hospital will be expected to hold the patient,” ruled Okwany.

The judge further noted that a case of a patient failing to pay the bill can be settled through other debt recovery mechanism such as a civil suit.

The ruling comes after a case was filed in court by Gideon Kilundo against Nairobi Women’s Hospital for detaining his father after failing to clear a Ksh 1 million medical bill.

The father, who was involved in an accident, was later on discharged but was detained for failing to raise the money demanded.

Mr Kilundo filed the case pointing out that the hospital refused to release his father even after the family agreed to settle the bill.

Justice Okwany further ruled that the hospital had the right to recover the money from the family through legal means once the father is released from hospital.

Nairobi Women’s Hospital

“Although the hospital should pursue other lawful means of recovering the debt other than detaining the patient, the court is of the view that it is not right for people to walk into private hospitals for treatment and expect to walk out without paying a single cent,” ruled the court.


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