Time ripe for ‘Health Service Commission’

Susan Nakhumicha Wafula CS Health photo

Health |Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha Wafula. The health sector is in need of a “radical surgery”.

Photo credit: File

I recently watched a 10-minute video of angry family members narrating to the media how their relative died as a result of what they termed as gross negligence and insensitive handling of the young mother by health workers at a Mandera public hospital.

They said the woman was taken to the hospital when she went into labour but the medics took the party around in circles for hours. She was later taken into the intensive care unit (ICU) but, soon afterwards, hospital staff disclosed to them—at the eleventh hour—that they had to airlift her to Nairobi since the facility could not handle the case. 

Two hours later, they said, their loved one died. The family blamed her death on the hospital staff’s improper handling of the case and insensitivity.

If indeed, that is a true account, it is unforgivable that a person should die at such a crucial facility, into which billions of shillings in public funds are injected to make it deliver quality healthcare. Also interesting is that the family narrated how they were told to buy even basic painkillers from private chemists.

The hospital is yet to respond.

The family of the child who had a fork jembe lodged in his head had also pointed the finger at hospital workers when he died.

There was a comic video doing the rounds on social media in which a woman acting in a short film as a nurse or clinical officer at ‘a government’ hospital tells queuing patients to buy all the basic laboratory materials for common tests.

Similar grievances

However, Kenyans comically expose the real situation. The tales of pain, neglect and breakdown in hospitals can’t be all innocent accidents. Tellingly, the accounts of grievances are similar.

It is time the debate on the proposed National Health Commission is revived. Is the level of investment in public hospitals reflected in their service delivery?

Besides, private hospitals appear to be operating in unchecked, ungoverned charters. For instance, is there regulation of hospital bills, like the way advocate fees are regulated? Why would a hospital, for instance, charge Sh100,000 for a caesarian section and another Sh1 million?

The commission would check the various gatekeeping rules for better healthcare. Is there a framework, for example, to check that public health officials do not operate their private clinics, hence compromising their work? 

The health sector is in need of a “radical surgery” (a la then-Justice Minister Kiraitu Murungi). A friend jokingly asked me recently whether the death toll of professional negligence by health workers and inadequate health infrastructure exceeds the number of deaths in road crashes.

Is the hospital such a dangerous and scary place for patients, yet they see it as their sole solace?

Ibrahim A. Issack, Nairobi


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