Kenyatta University Hospital for Teaching, Referral and Research
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Inside reforms for public hospitals attached to universities

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The main entrance of Kenyatta University Hospital for Teaching, Referral and Research.

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi | Nation Media Group

It will not be business as usual for hospitals attached to universities for training purposes after the Senate made a raft of recommendations following a dispute over the Kenyatta University (KU) hospital.

After deliberating on a row that saw two student leaders petition the Senate while claiming that KU medicine students had been denied access to the Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital (KUTRRH), a committee has recommended an amendment of three laws and the repealing of a 2021 legal notice.

Questions abound. Why is KUTTRH a State parastatal whereas it should be property of KU? Should a university attached to a hospital be supervised by the Ministry of Education or Health?

If the recommendations tabled last week by the Senate Committee on Health are implemented — and it wants them effected by August this year — three Acts will have to be amended so that the law can recognise the place of university hospitals. These are the Health Act; the Universities Act; and the State Corporations Act.

‘Revoke notice’

The Jackson Mandago-led committee says the amendment of those laws will “allow for the establishment of university hospitals with a focus on academically-based integrated healthcare delivery systems with an emphasis on teaching, training, research and evidence-based clinical service delivery (possibly Level VII), distinct from the current Level VI referral hospitals”.

Their suggestion of Level Seven hospitals is expected to create a new tier of healthcare facilities in the country.

“We celebrate the proposed introduction of Level Seven university hospitals which will be a game changer for medical higher education learning across the country,” the two student leaders who filed the petition, Jafar Muhsin Kasaya and Thiongo Muiruri Samuel, said in a joint statement on Friday.

Jafar and Thiongo had tabled their petition in the Senate in May last year, saying that whereas KU had started the hospital as a training facility, it was converted into a State parastatal through Legal Notice No. 4 of 2019. They wanted that notice revoked.

 Furthermore, the committee heard, there came Legal Notice No. 39 of 2021 which amended the 2019 legal notice and reduced the number of university representatives who sat on the hospital board to just one.

The Senate has now ordered the revocation of that 2021 legal notice, which in effect will see the KU vice chancellor and a representative of the KU council to sit on the hospital’s board.

It has also directed that KU medical students and faculty be granted full and priority access to KUTRRH for their learning purposes “with immediate effect”.

The academic block inside the hospital, the Senate has directed, should be surrendered to KU by August this year.

“This will empower more than 2,500 medical students to access and gain quality medical education and prepare the next crop of doctors who will help the country achieve the dream of Universal Health Care. In addition, the KU medical programme that originally seemed in jeopardy of de-registration has been given the much-needed boost of life,” said the two student leaders in their statement.

The petition saw the Senate committee hold a series of hearings starting from 2022. It heard from representatives of the KU academic staff union, the KUTTRH led by its chair Olive Mugenda, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Council, the Attorney-General, the National Treasury, and the State Corporations Advisory Committee. It also visited KU and the hospital.

“There was a need for KU and KUTRRH to formalise a working relationship for the benefit of KU students,” says one of the team’s observations.

From the proceedings, it emerged that the government had borrowed money to construct the KUTRRH and that it is repaying the debt from the exchequer.

“A commercial contract for the construction of the hospital was executed on August 12, 2010 between Kenyatta University and China Jiangxi Corporation for International Economic and Technical Cooperation… between Prof Olive Mugenda (then Vice Chancellor of Kenyatta University) and Mao Honghui (Contractor representative),” said the committee.

Hopeful that the Senate’s intervention may change the way things are done, the students wrote: “The next three months will be crucial to ensure the Senate recommendations are implemented. We look forward to the cooperation of all parties to ensure the seamless transition and fulfilment of our dreams.”