Kumasi -- A nursing mother who was unable to raise money to pay her medical bills at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) after delivery has been caught trying to abscond with the baby hidden in a basket.
The mother (name withheld) had hidden the baby in a basket, packed kenkey on top of the baby and covered it with a cloth, apparently to deceive the hospital security that she was carrying food but she was caught as the baby cried and fidgeted in the basket.
The woman was among a number of mothers who absconded with their babies from the hospital after delivery since they were unable to raise money to pay their bills.
A source at the hospital told The Mirror that the problem of absconding at the obstetrics and gynaecology department is so rampant that the nursing mothers resort to all sorts of methods to abscond with their babies including the tactic that was used by the mother who was caught with her baby in a basket.
The source said most of the people who abscond normally mingle with visitors during visiting hours and run away, while others would give their babies to their relatives to take away while they would follow suit when no one was watching.
About 198 nursing mothers were said to have absconded from the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in 2003 after delivery, denying the hospital several millions of cedis in revenue.
Hospital authorities said most of the people who absconded were those who lost their babies during delivery who might have felt there was no need to pay money when they were unable to get their babies.
This year, about 121 nursing mothers were known to have absconded between January and June alone. Hospital authorities said most of the mothers who absconded after delivery were mostly of northern extraction and were porters in the Kumasi metropolis.
They said whenever the hospital authorities detected that a nursing mother was unable to pay her medical bills they referred the person to the Social Welfare Office for assistance and that apart from the mothers who absconded in 2003, about 200 nursing mothers had been referred to the Social Welfare personnel for assistance.
It said some of them were made to pay part of their bills and were discharged after investigations had been conducted into their background and the authorities were certain that they would not be able to raise money to settle all the bills.
Hospital authorities added that a total of 11 nursing mothers were declared paupers in the year 2003 and discharged from the hospital without paying a cedi after investigations had been conducted into their background, while a total of 93 were referred to the Social Welfare Office in 2004 between January and June alone.
It said the situation was so worrying that most of them went to hospital without proper clothing for themselves and their babies.
Hence most of the nurses offered to assist when they came across such people.
In Accra, the situation is no different as many nursing mothers are being detained at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital for their inability to settle their hospital bills, reports Sophia Mensah.
Because of the congestion thus created, nurses, midwives and mothers have to contend with living under very uncomfortable conditions, with many of the mothers lying on benches.
Available statistics indicate that in 2002, about 78 nursing mothers absconded with their babies from the hospital without paying their bills. This amounted to ¢108 million loss to the hospital.
The year 2003 recorded 61 nursing mothers leaving the hospital unnoticed with a total debt of ¢30 million. In an interview with the Public Relations Officer of the hospital, Mr Mustapha Salifu intimated that most of the mothers had money but pretended to be paupers.
Mr Salifu cited the case of three mothers who allegedly planned to run away with their babies but were arrested by the security men. “Interestingly, the women sometimes tell their husbands not to come to the hospital for the authorities to see them since they would be asked to pay for their bills”, he added.
At the Ridge Hospital, the Principal Health Service Administrator, Mr Kwame Opoku, echoed what his colleague at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital said, adding that many mothers have taken advantage of the “cash and carry” system and present themselves as paupers when in actual fact they could pay for the bills.
He said about ¢11.764 million is owed to the hospital by nursing mothers.
Mr Opoku added that on the average 52 patients abscond from the hospital every year.