Report: E. J'lem hospital held newborn triplet as 'deposit'
Haaretz | March 17, 2006
y Yuval Yoaz and Yoav Stern
Moqassed Hospital in East Jerusalem allegedly refused to release a baby to its mother for two months until she paid her hospital bill.
After the Justice Ministry's legal aid department intervened last week upon the mother's request, the Health Ministry ordered the baby released to her. The ministry now is looking into whether the hospital can be prosecuted for false imprisonment, and whether it should assist the mother in suing the hospital for damages.
The woman gave birth prematurely to triplets at Moqassed two months ago, and the babies needed extensive hospitalization. But due to the hospital's concern that the National Insurance Institute (NII) would not cover the costs, since the babies' father is a resident of the Palestinian Authority, the hospital allegedly decided to release only two of the babies, keeping the third as a "guarantee."
The mother left with the two babies, and a week ago she and her father approached the Justice Ministry. "We looked into the matter with the hospital," the Justice Ministry's head of legal aid, Eyal Globus, said. "And it turned out that things were exactly as the mother said they were; the third baby was being held there." It was also determined that there was no medical need to keep the baby hospitalized.
Globus sent an urgent letter to the Health Ministry's legal adviser in which he wrote that the hospital director told him this was normal procedure to ensure debt payment. "We must see that the debt is covered from some source," Globus wrote. The Health Ministry subsequently ordered the immediate release of the baby, and the hospital complied.
The Justice Ministry's legal aid department is now working to arrange NII payment of the hospital charges. A lawsuit and criminal charges against the hospital are also being considered.
The babies' grandfather, Mustafa, lashed out at the NII. "Everything begins and ends there. They should have given my daughter a certificate that she is a resident of Israel, and then covered the medical costs," he said. "The treatment by the doctors and nurses at Moqassed was excellent," he added. Mustafa has been employed for 21 years at an Akim halfway house in Jerusalem, and he says he pays taxes.
Although married to a resident of the PA, his daughter has continued to live in the Shuafat refugee camp. He said that she wanted to give birth at Shaare Zedek Medical Center or at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, however, both demanded a NIS 338,000 check beforehand. "Moqassed is not to blame, Mustafa said. "It treated us better than other hospitals." He said the third baby had been kept in the hospital for continued care.
Mustafa also said the NII has delayed payment of a birth grant of more than NIS 10,000, and his NIS 4,000 monthly income represents the family's sole support. He said that in the meantime, the third baby has been admitted to Hadassah Hospital, Mount Scopus. "Where will we get the money," he asked. "In a country of law, things like this should not happen," he added.
Yuval Azoulay adds: The Health Ministry said yesterday that the claims regarding Moqassed Hospital would be checked. Ministry spokeswoman Inbal Yakobs said no complaint had been filed, but that in principle, a newborn must always be released with its mother, and the hospital must collect its debts only via acceptable means.
Last modified March 17, 2006