A health emergency can happen to anyone at any time. Whether that is an urgent caesarean birth, a child who has stopped breathing, or an adult involved in a car accident, access to medical treatment is a human right. Sadly, due to poverty, many vulnerable patients struggle to pay for the medical care they have received from their local hospital or clinic. As a result, these health facilities have no choice but to detain patients within hospital detention wards or medical prisons until their bills are paid. These bills can be as little as £5.
The World Health Organisation’s definition of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) includes the equality of access to healthcare services for all without experiencing financial hardship. While countries around the world continue to aspire to this target, there remains the need in the interim to support vulnerable patients who find themselves in such hardship, unable to cover their medical bills.
In many low resource countries, poorer patients in hospitals find themselves trapped in debt. Unable to afford their emergency treatment, they are often left as prisoners, powerless to leave hospital until they have paid any clinical bills they may have incurred. This fear of detention due to unpaid fees then goes on to deter some individuals from seeking medical assistance in the first place, choosing instead to remain at home even if medical help is required.
Those individuals that do end up trapped inside hospital are separated from their families for indefinite periods of time. Mothers after childbirth are kept away from other dependents at home. In some reported cases, newborn babies are even detained until their mothers return with the necessary payment. Breadwinners are kept away from their source of employment. No longer able to make a living, their detention has a detrimental effect on the family’s source of income, pushing them further into poverty. There are also cases of women and young girls compelled into sexual favours to buy their freedom. Your donation allows us to release them from this financial burden and abuse.
At Doctors Worldwide we believe wealth should never influence a person’s choice to seek medical help. Our Medical Debt Relief Project (MDRP) addresses medical poverty by clearing the medical bills of the most vulnerable patients currently detained in hospitals.
In Rwanda for example, we are supporting a community-based health organisation in the delivery of medical debt clearance for the most vulnerable patients in the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali. The first phase of the project will focus on maternal, new-born and child cases, patients with long-term conditions who are transitioning into palliative care, and patients with medical insurance who are unable to pay the 10% levy to cover all their costs.
In addition, we are supporting efforts to provide greater awareness within vulnerable communities of community-based medical insurance, a mechanism which can reduce costs by 90%. To accompany this, Doctors Worldwide are also providing medical insurance to 1000 vulnerable people, covering 166 families.
Iradukunda is only 3 years old but has been trapped in hospital for 2 years due to respiratory failure. For patients in wealthier countries like the UK, children are often safely discharged with the provision of home medical equipment and training for parents, and continued support. For Iradukunda, there is nowhere for her to go and no affordable support on offer. Her family are all HIV positive. They have no shelter and her mother is a single parent. For over half her life, she was unable to leave the hospital or afford the care she needed until we intervened. Your donation has now supported her safe return home with a personal oxygen support and medicine, as well as shelter, meals, clothes and hygiene material for her and her family.