Dozens of Taxi Drivers Storm Hospital Morgue to Get Body of Baby Held Over Unpaid Bills

A family who say they were refused by a hospital in Indonesia to take the body of their dead baby home due to unpaid medical bills, got a helping hand from a convoy of motorcycle taxi drivers.

6-month-old Alif Putr had lymphoma and underwent surgery in M Djamil Hospital in Padang, Sumatra. He had been treated for five days but died on Tuesday, according to Indonesian news website Coconuts.

In Islam, burials should normally take place as soon as possible. But the baby's mother, Dewi Surya, said they could not take their baby from the morgue until they paid the 25 million rupiahs ($1,774) they owed.

She told the BBC: "Poor Alif was waiting too long in the morgue. The hospital wanted us to pay the bill; the administration process was being dragged out. The drivers were angry. So they took Alif by force."

The motorcycle drivers included a family relative and they forcibly grabbed the body from the morgue. Wardiansyah, one of the drivers, said: "We are human. What if it was our own child?"

"In a case of death the hospital should make it easier. The family will eventually pay," he added, according to the Straits Times.

Footage of the incident went viral in the world's most populous Muslim country and sparked a debate about what poor people who can't afford to pay their medical bills should do.

There have been a number of recent cases in which children have been held by medical clinics until bills are paid, Coconuts reported.

A universal healthcare program has been implemented under President Joko Widodo but many families have not registered.

Dewi Surya said her family was in the process of signing up for the healthcare scheme when Alif got sick.

Hospital director Yusirwan Yusuf told the BBC bills had been waived and did not know about the family's financial position and said that the bikers' raid was dangerous because the body might have had a contagious disease.

"We are a public hospital and we never even ask patients whether they have money to pay for treatment. We apologize to the people of West Sumatra and hopefully this won't happen again."

One of the motorcycle taxi drivers, Alfiandri, apologized to the hospital management.

"I, on behalf of my colleagues, apologised for the incident and we aim to restore the good name of the hospital. We didn't know the procedure. It was taking too long, that's why we took that decision."

Motorcycle taxi Indonesia
A passenger is ferried by an online motorcycle taxi in Jakarta, Indonesia in this illustrative image. Footage of dozens of the drivers in Sumatra shows them storm a hospital to retrieve the body of a baby they said doctors refused to release because of unpaid medical bills. BAY ISMOYO/Getty Images