Hospitals are supposed to be places where people are offered the best medical care available so their chances of survival are the highest they can be. However, with the high rates of medical care often come high rates of hospital bills, regardless of whether the person can pay the bills or not. The lack of healthcare has decimated people’s finances and ruined their standard of living simply because they were unable to pay their medical bills.
Those who aren’t able to pay their bills are kept from leaving the hospital unless they find a benefactor to help them pay off the bill or are able to pay it off themselves. They are sent to what is deemed ‘lock-up, ’where a group of people are held with only a filthy bathroom to suffice for personal hygiene.
Some hospitals are even taking the phrase ‘chained to debt’ to heart, literally chaining patients who are unable to pay off their bills to pipes and forcing them to commit sexual acts to pay them off. According to a report published by Chatham House, many of these patients are mothers who have newborn children, who are starved, abused, and have to resort to having sex with the doctors to pay off their bills.
“[Detaining women who have not paid their bills] is a systemic problem, and the number of rights abuses is quite profound,” says Robert Yates, co-author of the Chatham House paper. “People are being detained without trial, they’re being locked up with security guards, and women are giving birth to babies who are entering the world, in effect, as prisoners.”
According to a study done in a hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in a six-week period, 54 percent of the mothers admitted to the hospital were detained for months because of their inability to pay off their bills. In another hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, mothers that were unable to pay their bills were forced to have sex with doctors, often receiving only 14 percent of the money needed to pay off their bill each time they fornicated with the doctor.
For the detained women, life is difficult. Not only are their means of escape restricted to methods such as sexual relations with the doctors, but food is scarce, with them needing to pay for basic amenities such as water. They are also followed everywhere by guards, questioned on their motives if they should so much as step outside.
“I cannot leave or move around. I am watched everywhere because they always think I want to escape,” says 17-year-old Flicit G., who spent two weeks at a Ngozi hospital because she could not pay the bill for her treatment. “But it is not good to run away. When they catch you, you cannot go back for treatment. I would be punished for that.”
The conditions patients face at hospitals like these only add to the growing movement towards bettering health care. Last Tuesday, a high-profile forum took place in Tokyo with key players such as the UN, the World Health Organization (WHO), and World Bank. One of the topics at the forefront of the forum was the best way to ensure the best healthcare worldwide by 2030.
Hopefully, a result of the forum was a solution to lowering the number of women that are forcibly detained in hospitals every year.
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