The past 17 months have been a nightmare for Joseph Mungai Kariha and his family as he watched his wife, Grace Mungai, battle a rare neural disease. It has been agonising for the family as it shared in the pain but could do nothing to save their loved one.
Grace, 54, a retired teacher died at the Nairobi West Hospital last Wednesday after working at the Thika School for the Blind for 30 years. She had been hospitalised since August 2017 and spent most of her stay in the ICU.
For 17 months, Kariha and family have watched as life ebbed away from his wife as a result of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a cureless neuron disease that wastes the victim’s muscles and eats into the nerves. The pain is clearly etched on his face.
And to cap it all, the family was slapped with a Sh38 million bill. Although the hospital management has agreed to release the body for burial tomorrow, it has demanded that the bill be paid in full in two weeks. That presents a dilemma.
Government has intervened, compelling the hospital to release the body allegedly on condition that the family does not go public on the issue.
The family is physically, emotionally and financially drained and cannot raise the money as it has exhausted all avenues of raising funds for the last 17 months.
“We have paid the hospital Sh2.5 million in cash. AON Insurance paid Sh1.6 million and the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) paid Sh500, 000. Family and friends have also helped us reduce the bill when my wife was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). We have absolutely nothing left,” Kariha says.
Out of the Sh38 million the family is required to pay, oxygen cost is Sh17 million, bed Sh7.7 million, and pharmacy costs run up to Sh5.9 million while Sh4.7 million goes towards doctors’ fee and other charges.
An official who declined to be named said the hospital has agreed to release the body for burial but expects the family to clear the bill after the funeral.
Cedrick Mungai the couples’ 24-year-old son narrated how the family helplessly watched his mother die a painful death in the ICU because the doctors could do nothing to save her.
“I am appealing to my mother’s employer that is the Teachers Service Commission and the National government help us clear the bill,” he says.
Thika Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) branch secretary general Joe Ngige says AON Insurance had only been able to pay Sh1.6 million for the deceased.
“We are going to appeal to other teachers under the Knut umbrella to come together and help this family,” he says. Kariha’s predicament epitomises the plight of many families when their kin die in hospital.
Two Members of Parliament, Mohamed Ali (Nyali) and Jared Okelo (Nyando) plan to bring separate bills in Parliament to compel public health facilities to waive bills for patients who die while under treatment. It is not clear if private hospitals will also be compelled do the same.