Graft: Pay private hospital bills

A Kenya Airports Authority worker looks on as a consignment of medical equipment donated by Jack Ma and Alibaba Foundations is offloaded from a plane at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on March 24.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • This ministry is notorious for corruption; hence, its headquarters, Afya House, is aptly nicknamed ‘Mafya House’, for the decades of blatant theft of healthcare funds.
  • The latest scandal to hit the ministry is on the leasing of medical equipment services.

Covid-19 is here and, as if, on cue corruption allegations follow the Ministry of Health yet again. The recent reports around Kemsa on allegations of overpricing medical supplies and misuse of Covid-19 management funds confirms that we have turned into a country that has signed up to sociopathy hook, line and sinker.

How we fail to feel for those ravaged by the coronavirus and other illnesses is perhaps a testament to a country seriously deficient of morals, humanity and compassion. I’ll never understand how people who steal from the sick and dying sleep at night.

Some of the funds from the donors on prevention of HIV-Aids in 2000s was slipped down the corruption hole. A few suspects were arrested but went scot free a short while later — for lack of evidence! Mobile clinics imported with a lot of fanfare have turned into another corruption deal.

The Chinese billionaire philanthropist Jack Ma gave Kenya a consignment of face masks, equipment and testing kits earlier this year but that, too, fizzled into thin air — obviously stolen before it reached the intended deserving beneficiaries.

Universal health coverage

Senior managers of the NHIF, which was set up to make universal health coverage (UHC) affordable and accessible to mostly poor Kenyans, are in court over graft. Meanwhile, as corruption goes on unabated at MoH, medics are dying for lack of PPEs as ordinary Kenyans struggle to access better healthcare. The runaway corruption means UHC is becoming a pipe dream.

This ministry is notorious for corruption; hence, its headquarters, Afya House, is aptly nicknamed ‘Mafya House’, for the decades of blatant theft of healthcare funds — a pattern that is unbroken and worsening with more allegations of corruption coming in thick and fast. Inertia by subsequent governments on corruption at MOH is now beyond a joke — if ever it was one.

The latest scandal to hit the ministry is on the leasing of medical equipment services (MES), whose cost see-sawed from Sh38 billion to an eye-watering Sh68 billion — almost double, and with its value to the taxpayer questionable. This is the sort of money that could easily stock up 20 level four hospitals with sufficient medicines, personnel and equipment.

We are now playing catch-up with corruption by following the trail of the MES money that has been siphoned off. I am not holding my breath.

Warning cartels

The government has a duty of care to provide healthcare. It is its mandate. And that mandate does not include being passive on MoH as it pours funds meant for healthcare into personal accounts. It is not about just warning cartels, some of which have morphed into civil servants and allegedly even set up desks in the ministry so they can easily indulge in theft of public funds.

To say Kenyans have got a raw deal from MoH is an understatement. Citizens are being punished for misdemeanours of corrupt officials within the ministry. They are forced to turn to expensive private hospitals for medicare while funds meant for public hospitals are blatantly stolen.

Kenyans should not bear the brunt of corruption and impunity within the ministry. It is only fair, therefore, that they send their medical bills from the private hospitals to the government for settlement, owing to its failure in their duty of care.

 The financial hardship Kenyans suffer as they settle huge private medical bills is mostly brought on by corruption within the ministry. The government is vicariously liable for the heinous crimes being committed at MoH; it is complicit through its inaction.

Kenyans have struggled in their millions to access better healthcare not for lack of hospitals but the hollowing out of public hospitals that seems intentional, calculated and premeditated.

Then those who steal from public hospitals afford themselves better healthcare locally and abroad. We cannot go on like this. Drastic measures are required to seal the loopholes that have been leaking public healthcare funds.

Thieves in the house

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe has been honest enough to admit that he has “thieves” in the house. Then what? We sit back and watch as corrupt individuals keep looting our resources to build better lives for themselves as millions die? Or do we apprehend them and charge them? Are the warnings on corruption from the government meant to give the thieves time to hide their loot and themselves? But thieves need to be handed a lifetime behind bars!

The Health ministry is responsible for the death of millions of Kenyans from preventable diseases due to impunity. Simply mass murder. Corrupt individuals at MOH have become so emboldened by lack of action from the government that they care little even in a pandemic. They are now dancing on the graves of victims of Covid-19!

Since the government has failed to contain corruption within the Ministry of Health, we have no choice but to start sending MoH our medical bills incurred at private hospitals for settlement. Fair game!