When 26-year-old Virginia Adhiambo walked into Nairobi South Hospital on February 1, 2021 to deliver her four bundles of joy, she did not envision walking out of the hospital with only two of her babies.
Ms Adhiambo gave birth to quadruplets at 31 weeks on February 1 via caesarean section. But on the fourth day, she developed complications that forced her to undergo surgery.
After being born at seven months, the four brothers — Micah, Jack, Teddy and Malik — were kept in incubators as their mother continued to receive treatment.
“My legs and stomach got swollen, and I got a severe infection that was not responding to medication. With my blood count dropping, I had a blood transfusion and ended up reacting to the blood. That got me into the ICU while the boys were kept in the incubator,” Ms Adhiambo said.
Two left behind
A month later, on March 5, she was discharged from the hospital. Her two boys had been discharged a week earlier while two were left in the hospital with a possible discharge date set for Thursday, March 11.
“Jack and Malik were left behind because they had to gain some weight before they were discharged. The doctors said they should be ready for discharge on Thursday,” Ms Adhiambo said.
On the day of the discharge, Ms Adhiambo and her husband Charles Ndonye went to pick their babies and offer the hospital a payment plan for the Sh3.4 million bill.
The new father had only Sh200,000.
“I can only afford to pay Sh50,000 each month. As a family, we are also planning a fundraiser. I will bring that money here, but to tell you the truth, I can’t get the 70 per cent you are asking me to pay. The only money I have with me now is Sh200,000,” Mr Ndonye said.
In a meeting attended by this writer, Mr Ndonye and his wife, the hospital's HR manager said the couple had to pay at least 70 per cent of the total outstanding bill amounting to Sh3.4 million before the new-borns can be released.
The manager further noted that even after paying the 70 per cent, the hospital board would have to meet and discuss their case and agree on how the balance will be paid.
“We have discharged the babies, but you need to pay 70 per cent first, then the board can meet and look at your payment plan for the balance,” the manager said.
However, Dr Abdisalan Maalim, the neonatologist who has been taking care of the quadruplets since birth, said he had not discharged the remaining two boys.
According to the doctor, the boys need to gain weight and be able to feed on bottles before leaving the hospital.
“As the doctor taking care of the children, I have not discharged them. They are still under observation. They were feeding on tubes but we just introduced them to bottles. They have to add weight too. Currently one is at 1.4kg while the other one is doing well at 1.6kg. However, one cannot leave the other behind. They have to stay together,” said Dr Maalim.
But Mr Ndonye refuted the claims by Dr Maalim and said that his boys had been introduced to the bottle by Friday last week.
“I was asked to bring the feeding bottle last week on Friday and the boys have been off the tube since then. Even on Tuesday when I visited them, they were using the bottles to feed,” Mr Ndonye said.
He added that he received a phone call from the hospital informing him that the babies had been discharged and he should visit the hospital and pick them up.
“I received a call from one Winnie, who told me the boys had been discharged. That is why I even took the bills and went to the HR manager to negotiate on how to clear the bill but have the boys released,” Mr Ndonye added.
When this writer called the hospital for a comment, she was put through to the deputy CEO’s office but there was no answer. Later, the phone operator said the deputy CEO had gone into a meeting.
Mr Ndonye, a businessman who sells banking machines, has so far managed — through friends, family and insurance — to pay Sh1.6 million (Sh1.4 cash and Sh200,000 insurance).
“We were willing to give the hospital our logbook as we look for money, but they have refused to take it. They say they have a lot of logbooks already at the hospital for other unpaid bills,” said Ms Adhiambo.
The couple’s journey to their bundles of joy has not been an easy one. They had been trying to have a baby in previous years, but the journey had been stressful because Ms Adhiambo had ovarian cysts.
It is only last year when they were told that they were expecting, not one, but four babies.
The family is now appealing to Kenyans of goodwill to help them raise the funds so that they can offset the bill.
“I'm calling for help from well-wishers. May Kenyans of goodwill help me clear the hospital bill. It’s now at Sh3.4 million but with the two boys still being detained in the hospital, the bill is expected to rise (M-Pesa Paybill 5541617;
Account: your name),” Ms Adhiambo adds.
Days before this, High Court Judge Weldon Korir had ruled that a patient has no obligation to pay a hospital for the period he or she is detained in hospital for failing to foot a medical bill.
The declaration was in a case filed by Ms Emma Muthoni against Nairobi Women’s Hospital for detaining her over a Sh1.7 million bill.
Ms Muthoni spent two months at the city hospital and her bill was Sh3 million. At the time she was discharged on May 14, 2018, the bill had shot to Sh4 million.