Hostage Baby Claim Delivers Hospital Probe

SEMARAPURA ~ A young couple’s claim that their newborn baby was being held hostage at a private hospital in Klungkung because they couldn’t pay the maternity fees has sparked a regency inquiry into the public hospital practice of transferring patients elsewhere.

Klungkung legislative secretary Ketut Janapria had intervened in the case, saying he would investigate the quality of service and leadership issues at Klungkung public hospitals.

“I’ll establish the truth of whether the transfer of patients really is because of operating room limitations and limited space post surgery or other reasons,” he vowed.

The young couple’s claim that Bintang private hospital was holding their new baby hostage because they could not pay fees of more than Rp5 million (US$500) has been vigorously denied by the hospital operator who said the baby had required medical observation.

I Ketut Suarnata and Ni Wayan Suardani, both 24 and from Banjar Jelantik Kuribatu at Tojan, Klungkung, said their story began on October 26 when a village midwife referred Suardani to Klungkung Public Hospital as she had low blood pressure and shortness of breath.

Suardani said she was told at the hospital that two patients were ahead of her in the line for caesarean births and that there was no blood in stock for transfusions.

The hospital had suggested that she go either to Sanglah Hospital in Denpasar or to a private hospital in Klungkung.

As the couple had no means of transport to travel to Denpasar, they decided to give birth to their second child at Bintang private hospital.

“For the birth process and care for eight days, I have to pay more than Rp5 million,” said Suardani. “I did not have the money.”

The new mother said that the hospital had suggested she go home to avoid incurring further costs for staying in a ward, but – she says – told her she was not allowed to take her baby with her.

She said she had been told the baby required treatment, but not what type of treatment that was.

“I’ve also tried asking the nurses, but no one wants to answer my questions,” Suardani said earlier this week.

The parents say the baby weighed 2.8kg at birth and was in a normal crib at the hospital.

After initial publicity of the couple’s claims, Dr Ayu Novianitri Martha of Bintang Hospital denied the hospital was holding the baby hostage and said the baby had jaundice and to have released the infant would have been life-threatening.

The doctor said normal Bintang Hospital fees in Suardani’s case would have been Rp8 million ($800) but she had been charged only Rp5.072 million.

“Honestly, this is painful for Bintang Hospital. At the time we tried to help the patient and instead there is a problem.”

Dr Martha said hospital records showed many patients were in arrears and the hospital had until now been lenient on payments as it respected its social obligations.

Secretary Janapria said he wanted to make sure public hospitals were not using the excuse of limited facilities as a “scapegoat” to move patients on to private hospitals.

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