Echoes from a dirty past as new plans for Sh28bn Eldoret mega hospital start
The revival of plans to construct a multibillion-shilling hospital in Eldoret could finally bring to an end the controversial circumstances that put the project on ice seven years ago.
In the first term of Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration, the Jubilee government was undecided on whether to construct a Sh28 billion facility or renovate the current multi-speciality 1,000-bed Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH).
The multibillion-shilling hospital project, which was to kick off in 2015, is still awaiting the release of funds after its approval by the Uhuru Kenyatta government and development partners to help decongest the current facility.
The project, earmarked for construction on 200 acres at Kiplombe on the outskirts of Eldoret town, is supposed to complement services offered at the MTRH.
The hospital will be built in two phases, with the first one estimated to cost Sh18 billion and phase two Sh10 billion.
In its initial stages, the project was stalked by controversy, forcing then Cabinet Secretary for Health James Macharia to come to the defence of the big names that were being mentioned.
A former aide of Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Raila Odinga, Mr Herbert Ojwang, while appearing before the National Assembly Public Investment Committee (PIC) chaired by Eldas MP Adan Keynan in 2015, termed the project a scandal to mint money for an individual, alleging a plot to fleece taxpayers of Sh11 billion through the deal.
Appearing in a live NTV interview in 2015, Mr Ojwang' alleged he had met then Deputy President (now Head of State) on the second floor of the Weston Hotel, which is associated with Dr Ruto, to discuss the project.
Dr Ruto would later dismiss Mr Ojwang as a broker and order that the plans be stopped.
He also denied any dealings with the former ODM man, who had also claimed to have conceived the idea as early as 2012 and negotiated the matter with a Chinese company.
Mr Macharia came to the defence of Dr Ruto then, saying the then MTRH management requested to meet the then DP to discuss how to obtain funding for expanding the hospital and improve on existing infrastructural facilities to truly function as a referral hospital.
"The project comprised the construction of a 1,000-bed in-patient complex, a reproductive health centre of excellence, a four-storey car park to accommodate 500 vehicles because of shortage of land at the facility, a solar plant with a capacity of 500 KWH, a modern hospital waste incineration plant and access road networks within the hospital," Mr Macharia said then.
Mr Macharia added that on perusing the proposal, Dr Ruto expressed concerns about some decisions taken in 2012 by the then Ministry of Medical Services.
The government was to expand the MTRH at a cost of US$191 million but shelved the plans for the construction of a new 2,000-bed capacity second referral hospital at a cost of US$563 million.
Among the concerns then were the manner in which the contractor had been identified and how the Sh17 billion contract value had been arrived at without a competitive process as required by law.
Others included the rationale for building an exorbitant Sh2 billion car park, the justification for the destruction of four occupied wards and the logic of building such a facility in an already congested place.
Consequently, Mr Macharia said the hospital, through the Ministry of Health, applied for a portion of the 800-acre prison land to the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government. This would allow the current facility to be utilised in Uasin Gishu County as a county hospital.
"The Cabinet approved the transfer of the 200-acre piece of land as per Ref: No.OP/CAB.58/4A OF July 11 2014 to transfer 200 acres of Prison land within Uasin Gishu County to the Ministry of Health," Macharia said.
200-acre piece of land
However, he said the 200-acre parcel had already been hived off, fenced and surveyed.
In March 2015, he said, the Ministry of Health floated an international expression of interest for the establishment of another hospital in the newly acquired 200-acre piece of land.
"The evaluation is ongoing, no tender has been awarded and no costs have been determined yet. Therefore, the so-called Sh17 billion or Sh28 billion contract does not and has never existed," he concluded.
And with the Kenya Kwanza administration determined to complete the two projects, the Sunday Nation has established that the controversial plan (of upgrading the MTRH) was abolished and another plan of constructing MTRH phase one came up.
MTRH Chief Executive Officer Wilson Aruasa said the upgrading of MTRH was abandoned and has no relationship with the projects in the pipeline now.
According to Dr Aruasa, the government plans to construct a 2,000-bed Multi-Specialty MTRH phase one at Kiplombe before proceeding to the Sh28 billion facility.
“The new 2,000-bed Multi-Specialty MTRH (phase 1) to be constructed at Kiplombe near Eldoret Airstrip will cost approximately Sh18 billion. The Sh28 billion I think is the total cost for the full 4,000-bed hospital after completion of phase two,” said Dr Aruasa.
“The one of 2015 was an upgrade of MTRH, it was completely abandoned and has no relationship to the new 2,000-bed Multi-Specialty MTRH advertised internationally in 2017, on the new site,” he added.
The Sh18 billion MTRH phase one, Dr Aruasa says, was advertised under Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Financing (EPCF) but did not proceed as there was no guaranteed funding.
When Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Wafula visited the MTRH on Tuesday, she disclosed that the government was keen to build the 2000-bed Multi-Specialty.
And when President Ruto attended an interdenominational service in Eldoret on Christmas day, he said: “I know that we have a pending MTRH project here, we will construct the other one. We have agreed with MTRH so that we expand and this will help us get a hospital for the county.”
Uhuru-era Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki had intimated that the current referral hospital would be handed over to the Uasin Gishu County government once the new facility, which is to be completed in 2021, was operational.
“Investing alone at the national level will not take us far. We need county governments to work closely with us so that we have donors to provide us with money and other experts to come in and play their roles,” she said in an earlier interview when she visited the MTRH.
The MTRH management had placed an international order for construction firms to carry out the multibillion-shilling project.
The government had pledged to give Sh200 million for the first phase of the second referral hospital after 200 acres of land near Eldoret GK Prison were set aside for the construction of the facility.
There had been a long-standing legal battle between the hospital and the Kenya Prison Service over ownership of a section of the land, but the dispute was resolved after the National Land Commission (NLC) permitted the use of the property for the hospital project.
According to the plan, the Sh18 billion hospital will comprise six multi-storey buildings and 36 nursing units, with 22 new general outpatient clinics to be hosted in a three-storey building.
The structure will also include a paediatric clinic and is poised to ease the congestion of patients seeking the services while enabling quick dispensation of service.
The report says the 4,000 beds will be accommodated in six multi-storeyed buildings and an accompanying 36 nursing units.
The administration block will be on a five-storied building that will also have new staff apartments.
Separate from the medical technology block that will host the administration, a research development and innovation block will also be built, among other essential structures.
The project has been cleared by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) after an Environmental Impact Assessment was carried out on the land earmarked for the construction.
Parliamentary Committee on Health Chairperson Robert Pukose said Sh18 billion would be factored into the supplementary budget to facilitate the first phase of the project kickstarted by the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital.
"We shall allocate Sh18 billion in our 2022/2023 supplementary budget for construction of the hospital which will be a new facility on a 200-acre piece of land," said Dr Pukose. who is the Endebbess Member of Parliament.
He said once the level-six facility is complete, the MTRH will be handed over to the county government, which does not have a level-five hospital at the moment.
The hospital, when complete, will rival one built by Kabarak University.
The brainchild of Retired President Daniel arap Moi, Kabarak University Teaching, Research and Referral Mission Hospital, which was expected to be operational by 2020, was to be constructed at a cost of Sh35 billion.
The project is said to have been conceived by the former President in 1978 alongside the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital.
Mid-last year, the Moi family-linked Kabarak University sought regulatory approval for its proposed Sh35 billion hospital in Nakuru County.
According to regulatory filings received by the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema), the mega-hospital will offer premium services and also host a top cancer treatment centre, besides acting as a research and training centre for health professionals in the East Africa region.
It will have 500 beds and will be built on a 100-acre piece of land in Kabarak.
The Kabarak hospital is expected to be completed in under three years, according to filings from the date approvals are given.
"The proposed development will be located on LR. no block 10/1920 opposite Kabarak University gate 20km from Nakuru town," said the university in the filings.