Taxi drivers storm hospital over baby’s body held in unpaid bills dispute

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The storming of an Indonesian hospital to retrieve the body of a baby claimed to have been held hostage over an unpaid bill, has sparked a renewed debate about the treatment of parents who can’t afford to pay their medical bills.

A motorcyclist has defended the storming of an Indonesian hospital morgue to claim the body of a baby being held over unpaid bills as a “humanitarian mission”, reports BBC News report. Wardiansyah was among dozens of motorcycle taxi drivers who decided to take action in the city of Padang. Phone footage shows the convoy leaving the hospital, with the tiny body of Alif Putr cradled in one man’s arms.

In Islam burials should normally take place as soon as possible. However, the report said, the family was told by M Djamil Hospital that they couldn’t take six-month-old Alif to be buried until they had paid their bills. It was then the taxi drivers decided to act, as the boy’s uncle was one of their own.

“We took action after finding out the family couldn’t take their child for burial because they couldn’t pay the 25 million rupiahs ($1,774; £1,370) in bills they owed,” Wardiansyah explained to BBC Indonesia.

“The security officers tried to stop us, but they gave up because there were so many of us.” 

There have been numerous cases in the past of hospitals and clinics in Indonesia holding newborn babies hostage until payments for medical bills are paid.

The report says that video of the incident went viral in Indonesia and sparked a renewed debate about the treatment of parents who can’t afford to pay their medical bills. Under President Joko Widodo, a universal healthcare programme has been rolled out across the country, but the scheme has been beset with funding problems and many poor families have failed to register.

Director Yusirwan Yusuf said the outstanding bills had now been covered by the hospital board, and described the incident as a misunderstanding.

“The hospital only found out about the family’s condition when they filed a complaint with our official,” he said. “We are a public hospital and we never even ask patients whether they have money to pay for treatment.”

However, Mr Yusuf criticised the raid by the bikers, which he called reckless and dangerous. 

“We have a standard operating procedure and it was broken. That’s outrageous. What if the body had a contagious disease? Who will be held responsible?”

BBC News report

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