The Al-Muqaddas hospital in east Jerusalem has found an original way to get women who have given birth at the hospital to pay their debts: If persuasions and demands don't work, babies are kept as hostages – until the financial matters are settled, Israel’s leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
The episode was uncovered on Wednesday by the Justice Ministry, which received a Shuafat resident who told how her baby daughter is being held at the hospital as 'deposit' in exchange for payment for treatment.
The woman said that she gave birth to triplets on January 15 – two girls and a boy - who were kept at the hospital ward for premature babies for treatment. Three weeks later, after it was time for them to be released, the hospital management said that she had to pay a fee of NIS 10,000 (USD 2,127).
The woman said that she could not pay the amount, and to her amazement the management said that one of her babies would stay at the hospital until her family pays 10 percent of the fine, and on condition that the hospital receives approval from the Palestinian Authority that the rest of the payment is delivered through national insurance.
'First time hospital kept babies as hostages'
The mother immediately turned to the Justice Ministry for legal aid, where the incident was investigated, and the Health Ministry was also brought into the case.
The Health Ministry sent a letter to the Al-Muqaddas hospital management which stated that "a hospital is not permitted to delay the release of a patient or a baby born in the hospital, and cannot force hospitalization."
"This is the first time the hospital has kept babies as hostages to get rid of debt," said lawyer Eyal Globus from the Legal Aid Department of the Justice Ministry.
When members of the Ministry sought an explanation from the hospital, Dr. Haytam al-Hassan said in response that this was a "normal procedure."
The baby was released from the hospital a few days ago, but Health Minister Jacob Edery (Kadima) instructed the Health Ministry director-general to urgently summon Dr. al-Hassan for clarification.
Tzvi Zinger contributed to this report