Kenyatta National Hospital is in deep financial trouble after the National Hospital Insurance Fund failed to pay Sh800 million it owes the giant medical institution.
The hospital operations are already in peril, putting the lives of thousands of patients, who depend on the facility, at risk with hundreds already being turned away as the financial crisis threatens to get out of control.
The Star’s spot check and interviews at the national referral facility revealed that despite patients having NHIF cover, they are compelled to pay cash if they have to see a doctor and get medicine.
Last week the hospital laid off five doctors, and a number of casual workers because of the financial strain brought about by the delayed payment.
Some medical and food suppliers have stopped supplying the facility because of accumulated debt, some dating back to October last year.
The hospital management blamed the National Hospital Insurance Fund for not clearing the Sh800 million, while the Prisons Department owes close to Sh200 million.
Some patients claimed they were no longer getting fruits in their diet, but KNH management dismissed the claims as false saying fruits are a key part of treatment and no patient had been affected.
A number of employees told the Star there were intermittent delays in salaries and allowances.
The parent of one patient only identified as James told the Star his son was almost discharged while in pain and in bad condition.
“They wanted to release our patient who was in terrible condition. At the same time I was told to buy medicine that cost Sh5,000,” he said.
A diabetic patient, who asked that his identity be kept secret because of fear of reprisal, said he had not been given any medicine and was waiting for a transfer letter to seek treatment from other health facilities.
“I am waiting for a letter so that I go to another hospital like Nairobi Women’s Hospital or so I think. Here it’s terrible. Nothing is happening,” he added.
Another attendant said his patient was not turned down, but was told to pay for drugs and he then opted to withdraw the patient and seek treatment elsewhere.
“I have a NHIF cover, but I am told to pay. I wonder why?” he said. Desperate patients without the financial ability to pay private hospitals asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene because health is one of his key agendas in his legacy projects.
“I call upon President Kenyatta to help solve this issue, its hectic,” said Njogu, a patient from Kisii.
But the head of clinical services at KNH Dr Peter Masinde played down the crisis saying the situation was manageable and that it had not reached critical level.
He, however, said the situation could get worse if NHIF does not pay the outstanding cash.
“The balance by NHIF is Sh800 million and they pay very slowly. Last month they paid only Sh10 million. At the rate they are paying, we will run into a crisis,” he said.
KNH, which was established more than 100 years ago and became a state corporation in 1987, has 2,400 inpatients and sees 2,500 outpatients daily.
“We want to schedule another meeting with them. We have asked for an appointment with the acting CEO and we are waiting for a response,” he said.
Masinde dismissed claims they were turning away patients as a result of the cash crunch that has hit the hospital.
“We are not turning away patients, those sent back have issues with their NHIF cards,” he said.
“Food is there, but some patients want certain types of fruit, which may not be available on a specific day. Supply of food is good and steady.”
The hospital confirmed they had stopped hiring doctors on a temporary basis (popularly referred to as locums in the medical field) and let go five accident and emergency doctors. Their contracts will not be renewed starting February.
KNH acting CEO Dr Thomas Mutie said the wing has 29 doctors round the clock, and the remaining 24 will now work on a full time basis.
“The human resources management department is looking into the matter,” he said on Monday.
NHIF confirmed they owe KNH a large sum of money.
Acting NHIF CEO Nicodemus Odongo said: “I can confirm we have a balance with KNH, but can’t confirm how much it is. Our credit period is three months. The hospitals is our client and we pay within three months.”
He said even after the fund receives invoices, there is a long process of verification before payment is made.
“It’s a continuous process and as we pay some invoices others are being processed,” he said.
“We paid KNH twice in December and last week also we paid some money to them.”
Odongo welcomed the planned meeting with KNH management saying NHIF holds regular meetings with service providers.
“We have regular meetings with KNH and most of our clients because there are always issues arising that need to be resolved, and we also have to do reconciliation of the accounts,” he said.