Nakuru County forcibly takes over private hospital

Nakuru War Memorial Hospital

The entrance to the Nakuru War Memorial Hospital in Nakuru City, which shares land with the Nakuru Level Five Hospital Annex. 

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi | Nation Media Group

When the founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta walked out of the Nakuru State House and crossed over to the neighbouring Nakuru War Memorial Hospital and verbally declared part of the hospital’s land forcibly “annexed” by the government, it was a peaceful annexation.

However, last Friday, the devolved unit of Nakuru, released a statement signed by the County Secretary and Head of Public Service Samwel Mwaura that it had taken over the management of the private Hospital.

This time around, the annexation was “brutal and chaotic.”

“What happened at Nakuru War Memorial Hospital on Friday night doesn’t happen even in wartime. We have patients who come for dialysis every day. Now, some of them I fear, might die,” said Dr Simon Mwangi, a director at the hospital.

“On Monday, we shall move to court to file a suit,” he added.

At 10 pm Nakuru County government healthcare staff crossed over from Nakuru Provincial General Hospital Annex and invaded the private hospital and ordered the staff and patients to vacate the premises in a harrowing operation that lasted more than four hours.

Some of the patients were bundled into wheelchairs and carted to the Hospital Annex swathed in bandages.

“The transfer of our patients to the Annex was brutal. I thought I was watching live scenes of the (war) in Gaza. The county staff haphazardly bundled the patients onto wheelchairs,” a nurse said.

She added: “Some of them were wailing as they were carried on stretchers and wrapped in bed sheets.”

Six women who had given birth some through cesarean section and their screaming babies were not spared either and forcibly relocated to the Annex. 

It was a night terrified patients, some on hooked onto saline drips and oxygen tubes in their nasal passages, would never forget.

“I have never seen this in my 15 years of service as a nurse. How can one invade a hospital and not knowing where drugs are kept and evict on-duty staff? That was inhumane. If the county government wants to take over the hospital it should follow the law,” said another nurse.

Some patients who arrived later to undergo dialysis found the hospital gate shut and the road leading to the facility barricaded by stones.

One patient flatly refused to be taken to the Annex and opted to be relocated to Nakuru Nursing Home by an ambulance.

Others preferred to be taken home in the middle of the night as the takeover intensified, lasting until 1:00am.

The private hospital is locked in a land tussle over the ownership of the 25-acre parcel of land with the County accusing the hospital of land-grabbing.

“The county government of Nakuru has taken a bold step to take over the management of the Nakuru War Memorial Hospital and ownership of land in question to end a long-running saga, which involved fraud, disenfranchising the public and disruption to operations of the Nakuru Teaching and Referral Hospital Annex,” said Dr Mwaura in a statement.

Responding Dr Mwangi said: “We have renewed our lease including for the land next to State House where the presidential helicopter lands, which for the record, belongs to Nakuru War Memorial Hospital.”

“Our title deed was issued in the 1920s. Our lease has been renewed for another 50 years by the national government. Nakuru War Memorial Hospital has not grabbed public land,” he added.

A County nurse involved in the operation said they were summoned for an emergency at the Annex without being briefed on the nature of their assignment. “I was called and told to go to Nakuru War Memorial Hospital and take it over,” said the nurse.

She added: “What I saw and participated in was against the Hippocratic Oath I took to practice my profession faithfully, abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. Much as I need this job, that was not the best way to take over a hospital, manhandling and leaving patients in pain.”

Police officers were deployed at the entrance of the private hospital Friday night to bar any outsiders from the facility.