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November 21, 2018

Resident forced to sell chicken to pay for tests

A new diagnostic machine at Kitui County Referral Hospital. /MUSEMBI NZENGU
A new diagnostic machine at Kitui County Referral Hospital. /MUSEMBI NZENGU

She sits clutching her walking stick staring at the health facility, hoping to get treated and return home, 70km away from Kitui town.

But despite the excruciating journey from rural Mutomo to Kitui County Referral Hospital, Jane Kaloki may return home without receiving any help.

The 60-year-old widow is unable to raise Sh4,500 needed to run tests before starting treatment.

She was referred to the hospital three days ago after suffering from chronic bleeding for three years. A clinician at a local health centre in Mutomo said she needed to see a gynaecologist urgently.

She has two sons who do menial jobs in Nairobi and who have been raise the amount.

As we approach her, she is a little uneasy because of her condition but also distraught.

Finally she raises her eyes to the sky and begins wailing uncontrollably, attracting the attention of passersby, who, after listening to her story, raise Sh7,000 on the spot.

Today she will finally get a diagnosis and she even has fare back home.

Kaloki can’t speak in coherent Kiswahili. She explains, amid sobs, that she has been at the hospital for quite some time without receiving any help.

The hospital is equipped and staffed, but the corridors are filled with patients struggling to raise money for services.

“I came here last week and was asked to pay Sh1,500 for some tests. Because I didn’t have money I had to go back home to sell some chicken,” Alfred Mutinda said.

He finally raised the money and underwent the tests, however he can only get some of the medicines prescribed as the others are out of stock.

“It is not bad because now I will go and look for the three drugs which cost around Sh220. I can’t complain as there are some who would have to wait to come for the drugs later,” he tells us.

Like Kaloki and Mutinda many Kitui residents can hardly afford the skyrocketing cost of treatment.

But this is set to change with the launch of an ambitious universal healthcare cover that would enrol at least one million people.

Once rolled out, each household would be required to part with Sh1,000 annual subscription to be insured.

The county aims to have enrolled 1,000 households by December.

The cover will be rolled out alongside the Health Management Information System (HMIS), which will digitise all health records as well as monitor movement of drugs in pharmacies.

Residents have high expectations. “The number of people who visit hospitals will increase because the services will be more or less free. We will no longer see many people fundraising to cover medical expense as that will be taken care of by the K-CHIC,” clergyman Andrew Kiilu. He is the presiding pastor at Kalawa Pentecostal Revival Church, Kitui Central.

Stephen Mukoma, a businessman in Kitui town, said the K-CHIC will greatly ease residents’ healthcare burden.

“...medical cost has without a doubt gone through the roof. There is need to make it sustainable once it is launched,” he said.

Mukoma said residents will no longer have to worry about high hospital bills and fundraising.

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