I am afraid that I refer to the local newspapers too much in my blog, but in the Sunday Standard there was a fascinating article about the Kenyatta National Hospital which I can’t resist mentioning.
The KNH is the largest referral, teaching and research medical facility in East and Central Africa and an imposing edifice - I have driven past it a few times recently. It has 6,000 staff, 1,800 bed capacity and 600,000 outpatient visits daily. From the road, it looks like a scarily gigantic 1960s style fortress plonked in the middle of a wide open field, or rather car park. Like a self contained town or village in itself – which turns out to be not far from the truth. It has the look of being the kind of hospital that, once admitted, you may never find your way out of.
The article was entitled; ‘Now desperate patients turn wards into homes as bills soar’, referring to the fact that patients stay in the hospital for extended periods, often due to the fact that they cannot settle their hospital bills. Reference was also made to the fact that the number of road accidents has risen considerably and the hospital is swamped.
The statistics were shocking. ‘A survey of the hospital’s Accident and Emergency Departments portrays a grim picture. Ward 6D has a capacity of 32, but last Friday it was holding 120 patients, a case also reflected in wards 6A, 6B and 6C.’ ‘Most patients sleep on mattresses shoved under beds, and only four nurses serve the more than 100 invalids in each ward.’
A friend of mine who is a nurse told me of the crowding situation in Kenyatta hospital after she did some volunteer work there – so the above came as no surprise. What was shocking to read was that 52 of the 120 patients in ward 6D have actually been discharged but detained due to non-payment.
‘Some patients intentionally refuse to pay so that they can continue to stay at the hospital where they get 3 square meals a day and other basic services.’ Mrs Lilian Kabua, senior nursing office in ward 6D said; ‘They survive on a hand to mouth basis and thus prefer life here than outside. This is tricky since we do not have a system of pushing them out.’ She added that some parents even ‘dump’ their children at the hospital and secretly monitor their wellbeing from outside through friends and relatives.
It sounds a bit like the story of ‘fake’ internally displaced Kenyans at the height of the post election crisis who would pitch up at IDP camps for Red Cross food handouts at 5am, hang about a bit then potter off back home at night.
In the Standard there was a photograph of Paul Njoroge, the victim of a car accident, who has been in the hospital for SEVEN YEARS and owes the hospital more than Shs 3 million. He cannot pay. What a nightmare.