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Correspondence: Beware the hospital halls of despair and death
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Correspondence: Beware the hospital halls of despair and death

Kenyan hospitals are under resourced with a serious shortage of specialists in diseases like cancer and surgery, reports Peter Njoroge, a 24-year-old from the town of Kiambu, near Nairobi.

A few weeks ago, as I sat on my bed watching the evening news, I was puzzled to hear a presidential report appointing Dalmas Otieno acting minister for medical services.

I wondered, though silently for lack of an interested audience, where the previous incumbent was, but was later to learn that the esteemed minister had a terrible disease and had been flown abroad to receive treatment.

But this article is not about Professor Nyong’o and his bid to seek quality treatment for his ailment and save his life. This is a story about why the man at the helm of the medical system chose to seek medical help so far away from home, driven there by the long queues in our public hospitals for cancer treatment and the realization that the few capable private hospitals are understaffed.

If a minister like Nyong’o knows that there is no chance of receiving the necessary attention from the few available specialists, how can ordinary Kenyans hope to cope with the cost and burden of treating major ailments?

Our hospitals are understaffed and there is a serious shortage for specialists in major diseases like cancer and surgery. The effect is heart-breaking. The halls of what should be the institutions of hope are full of misery, haunted by the cries of those wallowing in misery and by the wails of the dying.

And the government watches on, untouched, unconcerned, contemptuous, ready to be whisked off to far away lands if the same stalks them.

I came face to face with the sad state of affairs in our public hospital when accompanying my sick mother to Kiambu district hospital. My mother who couldn’t take a single step without tears running down her face. My frail mother whose every breath felt like inhaling a ball of fire, and the prospect of walking loomed like a walk in Siberia without any piece of clothing.

My mom who looked so thin and sick, a gust of strong wind could have knocked her down. And the pain in her face, I could feel my heart break into a million pieces, but I had to find the strength to get her help in this institution of hope.

And just there on the entrance was a comfortable wheel chair to carry my mother to the doctor’s room and the warmest caring nurse I’ve ever seen, who fussed around my mother and tried her best to get her to the doctor as soon as possible.

Did I tell you that we saw the doctor in less than five minutes? Yes, he was such a caring gentleman who examined my mother and decreed that she needed to be given further tests immediately then admitted to the nearest ward for further analysis and treatment. At night when my mother fell critically ill, the doctors rushed to her aid and stabilized her. And she’s now in the kitchen preparing us dinner.

Now go back to the entrance and take it all back, for none of this was there, nor was there any real attempt to assist us. And no, my mom is not in the kitchen, she lies lonely on a solitary grave, while our hearts mourn silently for her.

My dear mother, a casualty of a system filled with uncaring professionals, their indifference paled only by their monumental incompetence. So ladies and gentleman, what higher right do ministers have over my mother, that they should be spared the eventual consequence of seeking care in one of the public hospitals here in Kenya?

Somebody should drag these ministers to Kiambu hospital, let them walk from the entrance without a wheel chair, find an uncaring nurse, be served by an incompetent and jack ass physician, be denied admittance to the wards because they doesn’t know anyone there and finally go home to die, in utter and unbelievable pain.

And maybe, if the God’s deem them fit for reincarnation, they can do a genuine job of reforming Kenya’s medical system, and avert the senseless anguish Kenyans endure all the time.


Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. All articles are published in a spirit of improving dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

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