Vihiga hospital where patients bribe to be attended to

Vihiga County Referral Hospital

Vihiga County Referral Hospital. Patients at the facility claim corrupt health workers demand cash before attending to them.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Patients seeking treatment at Vihiga County Referral Hospital have claimed corrupt health workers demand cash before attending to them.

While all payments are supposed to be made in the accounts office, they said health workers demand to be paid directly before serving patients.

Patients are allegedly asked to pay more than what the hospital charges for diagnosis and treatment.

They said the practice is more common at the hospital’s outpatient department.

A Nation investigation at the hospital last week revealed how the health workers extort money from patients and pocket it.

When we visited the facility on a Wednesday, we met *Ms Julia Sato (not her real name) at the clinic after a referral from Eregi hospital in the county.

The young woman explained that she suffered from constant stomach pains and was referred to the hospital for a blood test.

After paying Sh120 at the registration office, she was asked to proceed to the outpatient room to see a doctor, where she spent more than three hours in the queue.

But when she finally got to see the doctor, she was asked to pay Sh1,000 for a blood test.

She did not have the money, and we offered her Sh500, which she took to the medic, who gladly accepted it and proceeded with her diagnosis.

Also at the waiting bay was another woman with her three-year-old son.

After waiting for more than one hour, she decided to leave unattended, promising herself to pass by a chemist and buy anti-malaria drugs.

"My son has been vomiting a lot and I think it could be malaria. I see no need to wait to see a doctor, only to pay a huge amount of money when I can get the services at a chemist or pharmacy at a fair amount," she said.

Several other patients left with a promise to come back after they were asked to pay for services.

Some patients said the practice had been common in the outpatient section for months but no disciplinary action has been taken against the medics.

Corrupt health providers have also been blamed for making vulnerable patients avoid the hospital while taking money that could have been used to purchase supplies.

Medics in the outpatient department have been warned several times but have not changed their behaviour, said a senior hospital worker, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Several patients have lodged complaints against the health officers, who somehow go scot-free due to lack of evidence, the worker said.

“We are advising our patients to avoid making any payments to the health workers and to report to the administration [if money is demanded from them],” the worker said.

Health executive Prof Inonda Mwanje told the Nation his office had not received such complaints.

But he said his office will investigate the matter and ensure disciplinary action is taken against those involved.

“The matter is serious and should not be tolerated,” he said.