Forget the KNH saga, our local health centres are worse.

A file photo of the emergency entrance of Kenyatta National Hospital.

For the third time in two months, Kenya’s largest referral hospital, Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), has been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons, the latest being a brain surgery performed on the wrong patient. 

On January 19, the hospital was in the spotlight with allegations of rape accusations and abuse of women who had just delivered and were forced to walk in groups when going to check on their newborns on a different floor to avoid being raped by the hospital morticians.

On February 18, they were in the news again after a two-week old baby was stolen from the facility as his ailing mother sort some emergency medical attention.

This might look strange and scaring but that is exactly what majority of poor Kenyans go through as they seek treatment in most of our local medical facilities.

In Kenya, chances are that if you are too poor to afford treatment in a private hospital, you will definitely end up at these medical institutions. Unfortunately, investigations into most of these public facilities reveal the daily horror experiences that confront both the sick and their kinsmen every time they make a visit for this very vital service.

These hospitals have been engulfed in so many scandals. Everyone who seeks treatment in these facilities have a distinct story. Be it overcrowding, quality of care, poor attitudes, deterioration of medical equipment, dilapidated infrastructure, lack of drugs, lack of enough human resource and duplication of roles, the list is endless.

Most of the health projects in sub-counties have stalled. In others, some of the very basic equipment and machines are lacking or are nonfunctional and patients are referred to private facilities to obtain a service that, in the first place, should be in any government hospital.

Patients dying on benches.

Cases where patients lose their dear lives allegedly due to negligence has become so common that it no longer makes news. So many patients die while at the bench waiting to be attended as arrogant nurses and hospital staff pass-by casually and with least of sympathy to their sick clients as though nothing strange is happening at all. 

In each of these cases, the hospital administration is quick to dismiss relatives or good Samaritans who dare raise a finger over such incidences. They are known to immediately spring onto the defense of their not so appealing staff even without listening to the pleas of the relatives.

In most instances, patients seeking services at these facilities are therefore forced to bribe their way through in order for their desperate relatives to be treated. Those who know somebody’ at the hospital stand the best chance of being attended.

Artificial drug shortage.

Most hospitals never keep stock of the most essential drugs forcing patients to buy these drugs from the ever mushrooming chemists outside these hospitals. After prescription, some patients are instructed or advised by the staff to buy these drugs from certain chemists or specific private pharmacies which raises eyebrows.

It is alleged that a section of corrupt hospital staff steals the drugs meant for the sick and trade the same to the ever growing number of chemists neighboring these facilities. Some of the staff are also known to run some of the chemists and clinics in the town.

Scans and X-Rays.

The worst hit patients are those who are advised by the doctor to go for various operations at the theater. Many such patients are recommended to go for X-Ray services usually conducted at the hospital at a reasonable fee but whose results take months to be released ‘because the specialist who interprets them’ has not done so and the doctors cannot proceed with treatment.

Curiously though, those who heed the advice of the staff to take such specimens to expensive private labs in town have their results released immediately and strangely the interpreter is the very officer who is hired and posted by the government to work at this same public hospital where he is never present.

Those who cannot afford the services of the private labs whose proprietors offer kickbacks to the specialist are never so lucky. They either die while still waiting for the lab reports of the specimens or resign to fate.

Nurses from hell.

Patients admitted in general wards are reportedly harassed by the cruel nurses who instead of nursing them sick are only known to be the worst molesters. While their colleagues in private hospitals are known to be very kind, caring and supportive, these ones are different. Patients admit that being admitted in some of these facilities is the worst thing that can ever happen to you.

In some wards, patients sleep on the floor without proper bedding. In the maternity ward, two or three pregnant women share a bed under very unhygienic conditions. The poor state made even worse by bleeding patients who are left to sleep in their soiled clothes for lack of clothes despite the health docket receiving billions every financial year. 

In conclusion.

All these observations highlight how to the bottom of the barrel the society has sunk. Majority of these problems can been attributed to management weaknesses, both in structure and staffing, the absence of good controls and system, and the slow bureaucratic decision process. For those in the know, there are always some invisible political hands behind the rot in these hospitals.

That notwithstanding, the problem can also be attributed to understaffing, overworking and under-motivated doctors and staff. Doctors are at times overwhelmed and stretched beyond limits due to the imbalanced doctor to patient ratio.

The health sector problems are structural and fixing them need sobriety.

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