Thursday, July 9, 2009

Previous and present state of Government Hospitals in Kenya

There was a time Government hospitals in this country were dreaded for the rate of deaths caused by mostly negligence, pathetic conditions of the institutions and in some cases bad diagnosis.

Kenyatta National Hospital the biggest referral hospital in this region was like a death chamber where people feared for the lives of their relatives or friends if hospitalized, some even claimed there were demons or evil agents working in the Hospital because of the high number of deaths occurring in the hospital. The hospital was known for long queues starting early in the morning till night and patients would die on the queue even when the medical staff watched. As a child I came to fear the hospital when a relative died, he was in a ward with 11 other patients. My mum and aunt would visit him everyday, they would find his condition getting worse daily, they complained of poor treatment the patient was not able to go to the bathroom so he would be socked badly by midday when they visit him, before they gave him food to eat they would have to clean and change him first. Patients very ill had to wait for their relatives to feed and change them, therefore many patients died one by one. The stories of the hospital those days scared me and I swore as a child I would never get hospitalized in that hospital.

The hospital is now different from what it was those years. I think the situation changed because of freedom of the media and also when opposition came into power in 2002, the issues started getting highlighted and dealt with. One person who brought a major change to this institution is Prof. Meme, the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, he would disguise himself as a patient, then go to every part of the hospital and in the process catch the medical staff in action, neglecting, mistreating or abusing patients. He would then fire the person there and then. The media highlighting the cases also helped the institution prompting the administration to deal with their staff accordingly. There are still a few cases of poor patients being detained for not being able to clear their bills and lack of some drugs but generally they have improved.

Pumwani Maternity hospital also the biggest Maternity hospital in the region, was also notorious of babies disappearance, careless handling of patients and also being in a pathetic condition. Many women went there because it was affordable compared to other hospitals and some did not know what the hospital was like until they got there. I have never been to this hospital but the stories I heard about the state was scaring. Mothers would be told their babies died while the babies were alive at birth then a still-born child would be shown to the mother, this was common to mothers with twins or who lost consciousness after delivery. Babies disappearing or switching of babies was a common occurrence in the hospital. Just like Kenyatta Hospital things changed when the opposition came into power, being run by the City Council under the Local Government. The then Minister of Local Government the Late Hon. Karisa Maitha paid surprise visits and dealt with the medics in charge.

The stories were the same and worse in district hospitals all over the country. Pathetic conditions of the hospitals, lack of water, congestion in the wards, patients sharing beds. Patients sleeping on the floor, lack of medicine and supplies, shortage of staff, patients being turned away, poor patients being detained due to lack of money. I started with the two major hospitals in the Capital City Nairobi because they are the biggest referral hospitals and the biggest in the country. They are now in better conditions and the services have improved. However the situation is different in other hospitals in the rural areas. Many district hospitals are still in bad conditions and the services are very bad. It seems this government since 2002 concentrates on changes in its capital Nairobi.

One such notorious hospital is New Nyanza Hospital also known as Russia, this week I saw protests in the news about this hospital, a man had been left on a stretcher for hours without being attended to and later died. The next day on Citizen TV news they showed a comparison on how Kenyatta National Hospital handled their emergency cases and compared with New Nyanza Hospital. The stories I have also heard about this hospital and experienced with relatives and friends from the Lake region are terrible and annoying. An aunt operated badly during a C-Section her wound opened causing her intestines to protrude, she ended up with a bad scar in her tummy. Many friends and relatives lost due to lack of medicine, negligence, patients staying in the ward for long before being seen by a doctor, doctors giving wrong diagnosis this happened to someone who is a medic in a Nairobi hospital and knew what was ailing her relative. The lady tried to explain to them that what her relative is suffering from is not what they have diagnosed and tried to advice what should be done. They ignored her, she looked for the tools and medicine to save her relative but it was too late and watched her relative die.

Most of the staff are rude, corruption is rampant with some of the staff asking for bribe openly before offering other services, only those who know someone working there get served well and faster, some doctors would not even touch a patient, the stories are many I cannot write all. The Ministry of Health has 2 ministers one Hon. Anyang’ Nyong’o comes from the region; he should investigate this institution and bring changes. This is a big referral hospital in Western Kenya that should have appropriate services, well trained and disciplined staff. There is no need of those from Western Kenya coming all the way to Nairobi for better treatment.

It is not only this New Nyanza Hospital that has poor services, other Government hospitals in the country are also in bad shape and the kind of treatment being offered is poor. The Government should start investigating the operations of its hospitals and health centers all over the country. You meet people coming from all over the country, they will tell you tales of Government hospitals and one would only hope not to find themselves in these hospitals under any circumstances. Its not that only those with low in-come who can find themselves in these hospitals, many people traveling and having been caught up in an accident find themselves rushed into these hospitals. When you hear tales of other district hospitals, Kenyatta Hospital which many of us in Nairobi thought was very bad is now far much better. I normally wonder is it about salaries? Are they paid differently from those in Nairobi or is it that the most qualified medical staff are employed in Nairobi?. I believe there a few medical staff that are good and have a heart to work in the institution but the bad ones are spoiling for them. May be the Government needs to use the same tactics used by Prof. Meme and the Late Hon Karisa Maitha to deal with these institutions before more people die due to negligence.


Tamtam said...

My godmother used to take me to Kenyatta as a kid, when she was visiting patients there. It scared the hell out of me. I will never forget what I saw. This is back in the seventies.

We walked through accident and emergency. Those days, there were lots of dead bodies, lying around. Blood on the floor. When you got to the wards the hygiene was bad.

Thank god for people like Prof Meme.

I wonder whether some of the staff are so overwhelmed. It is no excuse for their behaviour at all though.

I have a friend who died there who had cancer. She died in a private wing of the hospital, and am told was taken care of very well until she died.

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