ARDD and the Justice Forum advocate work to prevent the retention of personal identification documents by hospitals in Jordan and MOH responds
Local civil society organizations, better capable of analyzing and identifying the needs of their communities, spearhead evidence-based advocacy efforts that lead to concrete results on the ground.
Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) engaged in such advocacy effort, scoring a measure of success, but vowing to obtain more.
Through the Forum for Supporting the Justice Sector – a joint ARDD-Durrat Al-Manal for Development and Training initiative – and through its Public Health Policy Lab sessions, which enjoy the participation of experts in the justice and health sectors, and which aimed at integrating the right to health into the justice system, ARDD contributed to improving one aspect of the Jordanian health sector. The sector has witnessed a steep decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to an increase in cases of medical accountability lacking health services, and adoption of practices that, due to ARDD’s hard work and determination were proved illegal. More specifically, the seizure of patients’ personal documents by way of ensuring payment for their treatment.
During the Public Health Policy Lab session, ARDD was the first to raise the issue of hospitals withholding patients’ personal documents as a guarantee that they would settle their hospital fees, one of the major problems that have emerged recently, and which the Ministry of Health felt it needed to address.
Minister of Health Dr. Firas Al-Hawari issued instructions with the heads of health directorates and hospitals, asking them to prevent the seizure of patients’ identification documents, which is illegal, according to Article 10 of the Civil Status Law.
Having the required expertise, ARDD was able to spearhead the advocacy efforts and legal discussion within the Justice Forum, ARDD’s legal aid department, about the issue. It presented a legal analysis that had dealt with 565 cases in which identification documents had been withheld by Jordanian hospitals in the period 2020- 2021. The number of such cases varied across the various Jordanian governorates. The central governorates witnessed 216 cases, the northern governorates 187 cases, the southern governorates 111 cases, and the Syrian refugee camps (Azraq and Zaatari) 51 cases.
This illegal practice poses a great problem, especially for refugees. As such, the legal aid department issued a recommendation, to be circulated by the directorates of health in Jordan, asking for the practice to stop and for hospitals to resort, instead, to legal means and relevant enforcement entities, in addition to establishing a mechanism that enables patients to pay their dues in installments.
ARDD shared a letter with Minister Al-Hawari, informing him of the severity of the issue, in particular for the refugees who already suffer tremendously, are under more serious monitoring and who, without identification documents run the risk of jail.
In response to the letter, Dr. Al-Hawari sent a letter to the heads of health directorates and hospitals, instructing them to ask their cadres to desist from withholding personal identification documents of both Jordanian and non-Jordanian patients who fail to pay the costs of their treatment at the Ministry of Health’s hospitals and, instead, resort to legal action.
Dr. Al-Hawari has instructed that, instead of seizing patients’ personal documents, the accountant or administrative employees request that the patients or their sponsor sign a pledge that they will pay the amount due upon their discharge from the hospital.
The issue has not been fully addressed yet. Fulfilling its duty to serve the local community and to strive to ensure respect for the rule of law, ARDD, through the Justice Forum’s Public Health Policy Lab, will follow up on the adherence of health directorates and hospitals to the Ministry of Health instructions.