KNH chokes in debt as patients fail to settle Sh562 million medical bills

Kenyatta National Hospital. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Pending bills held by Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) nearly doubled in the financial year ended June last year, an audit shows, as patients walked out without paying Sh562 million in medical services bills.

The country’s largest public hospital owed suppliers Sh2.9 billion as of June 30, 2023, an increase of 83 percent from the Sh1.6 billion it owed at the end of the 2022 financial year, the latest audit reports show.

Auditor-general Nancy Gathungu said this continued accumulation of unpaid bills by the crucial health facility “distorts the financial statements and adversely affects the budgetary provisions for the subsequent year as they form a first charge.”

This increase in the hospital’s debt came as unpaid hospital bills by patients and other clients hit Sh13 billion, some of which were attributed to seemingly non-existent patients.

Of the amount, Sh562 million was owed by individual patients who left the hospital without clearing their bills, but 678 of them could not be verified as they had no known inpatient or invoice numbers.

“Verification of schedules revealed six hundred and seventy-eight (678) patients with total unsecured debt amount of Sh74,556,613 did not have details of in-patient number, invoice number, folio number, and guarantor,” Ms Gathungu said in her audit report of the hospital’s books.

“In addition, these debts have been outstanding for more than 360 days,” she added, indicating that the prospect of recovering these debts is low and may be attributed to ‘ghost’ patients. In addition to the unpaid medical services bills, KNH also failed to collect Sh36 million in rent from staff living in the hospital quarters, contributing to the revenue shortfall that impacted its operations.

The hospital also made contract losses of Sh379 million, which arose from medical costs incurred on patients who were contributors to the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), but beyond the reimbursable limits of the said patients.

In the period, KNH collected revenues amounting to Sh20 billion, 4 percent less than the budgeted Sh21 billion, but spent Sh26.6 billion, which is 12 percent more than the initially planned expenditure, hence the rise in debt amidst revenue shortfalls.

With a bed capacity of 2,400 beds, KNH serves over 1.7 million Kenyans every year, according to its hospital records, and many would be affected if service delivery were to be affected in the facility.

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