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How hospitals kidnap mothers, kids, over debts – by Onwumere

Reports from the media assault our collective conscience of hospitals, and health centres taking their patients hostage due to their inability to settle their bills, by Odimegwu Onwumere

The harsh economic times in Nigeria is currently forcing humanitarian organisations to do the absurd. 

For instance in the health sector, all the good virtues of Florence Nightingale, the mother of nursing, have been thrown into the abyss. 

Medical doctors act on patients no matter how critical the condition, based on the colour of their currency bill.

Kidnapping, which was used by the Niger Delta militants to pursue their course, has become a big business even for hospitals across the country. 

Virtually on daily basis news reports from the media assault our collective conscience of hospitals, and health centres taking their patients hostage due to their inability to settle their bills. 

The most piteous is the agonising sight of mothers and babies being held captive by health organisations because of their inability to pay bills in, on time.

Findings by this writer showed that many mothers have been detained by hospitals officials they were delivered of their babies in, for failure to pay hospital bills popularly known as Awaiting Bill Settlement (ABS), they were charged.

They were billed money ranging from N500, 000 to N200, 000 as the case may be, checks have revealed, whereas many of the mothers were housewives and their husbands had little or no means of resources.

Government hospitals charged between N11, 000 and N40, 000 for antenatal alone, while private hospitals charged between N25, 000 and N100, 000, said editors of a leading newspaper.

They said the monies exclude charges for birth “either through normal delivery or by Caesarean Section (CS) and post natal care including the use of phototherapy and incubator for babies with jaundice and premature respectively.”

In some cases, the women’s husbands eloped or stopped picking calls from their wives or the hospitals authorities when they had exhausted all avenues to raise money and get their wives out of the hook.

The biting wit in most cases was that many of the women had to feed themselves and their babies, when those who were supposed to be bringing food to them from their homes, stopped bringing food on ground of scarce resources to afford food.


In June 2016, Gloria Okore was under arrest by the authorities of a private hospital in Lagos she was delivered of her set of triplets in, for her incapacitation to offset her medical bills of N35, 000, which was a fraction of N120,000, she was supposed to pay at the hospital.

“A disturbing but common practice in many developing countries is the detainment of women who have recently given birth and who cannot afford their hospital charges.

“Contrary to policies aimed at encouraging women to deliver in health facilities, this practice is an abuse of their rights and has implications for wider maternal and neonatal health,” reported researchers Delan Devakumar and Rob Yates, June 2016.

Narrating what transpired, Okore said that although she had her babies without complications except that they were born prematurely.

It was learned that one of the babies died after, due to lack of incubator in the hospital to keep the children warm.

She appealed to government to assist redeem her of the hospital cost since her husband was a roadside trader with modicum income.

Okore later gave out her bank details, soliciting for financial help from the general public.

Many Nigerian mothers undergo the same fate as Okore’s. 

On October 28 2015, a similar occurrence occurred to a 23yr old B. Godwin, from Eket L.G.A in Akwa Ibom State.

When she was admitted in the labour room on that day at about 6pm, little did she know that she would be delayed by parturition, hence the suggestion by the hospital that she be transferred to an upgraded hospital.

The VOC News could testify that Godwin recounted her puzzlement at Ilasamaja health center, saying, “I was stranded because there was no cash on me.

“My husband and I stayed from 11pm to 4:30 am the following morning, before we could get assistance to take us to Isolo General Hospital.”

She was not saved at the Isolo General Hospital, either. 

With fear narrated by a nurse on duty that her unborn baby might die in her womb if she delayed, she was moved to Mater Christi: A specialist hospital located at 8, Bishop Okogie Street, off Ago palace way, Balogun B/stop Okota Lagos.

Instead of the baby would die, a Caesarian was performed. An outstanding bill of N150, 000 was given her out of which the husband was able to pay N50, 000.  

“As a result of the inability to pay up the complete bill, the poor woman has been detained by the hospital management for the past 2-weeks, because she and husband could not afford to pay the outstanding hospital bill,” the source educated.

Like Okore gave out her bank details for public assistance, Godwin did not shy away to do the same.

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