INJUSTICE IN HEALTHCARE

It's a scary prospect to fall sick in Kenya

In Summary

• It is most dehumanising when one has to watch helplessly as a loved one dies because you can’t afford high cost of healthcare.

• Pharmaceutical business has become one of the most lucrative enterprises, at Kenyans' expense.

Mentally ill patients confined outside their wards in Mathare Hospital during a visit by the National Assembly Committee on Health.
Mentally ill patients confined outside their wards in Mathare Hospital during a visit by the National Assembly Committee on Health.
Image: MONICAH MWANGI

Dr Martin Luther King rightly said, “Of all forms of injustice, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Fifty-six years after Independence, majority of Kenyans cannot access proper healthcare and many people have died from diseases that could have been cured if only the right equipment were available and affordable.

Many families are conducting fundraisers to offset huge medical bills while others are forced to dispose of assets such as land to meet the high cost of medical care.

 

The promise of the Founding Fathers at Independence in 1963 was to fight ignorance, poverty and disease but there is little to show over half a century later. Successful governments have given the same promise, with the current leadership putting affordable healthcare as one of its four pillars of development.

When one visits any government health facility, lack of drugs is no longer a nightmare but something poor Kenyans have come to live with. They go to private chemists, which milk them dry. No wonder therefore that pharmaceutical business has become one of the most lucrative enterprises in Kenya, but of course at the expense of poor Kenyans.

The government should come up with a system where those who are well endowed contributed for the sake of their needy brothers and sisters. Let's face it, even the NHIF has not been of much help; the minimum Sh500 is still not affordable to a big number of Kenyans most of whom are jobless or earning peanuts.

Since health was devolved after the promulgation of the new Constitution, the county governments have become inept to a point where many have lost faith in services offered by health centres, dispensaries or level 4 and 5 hospitals, which are run by county governments.

The medical personnel who run these facilities are either running their own private clinics, working part-time in private clinics and pharmacies, and lack the passion to take care of the sick due to frustration by the county governments. A good example is the strikes by nurses in a number of counties since devolution came into effect.

It is a high time the country’s leadership faced the reality that we have a serious problem in the health sector. That poor Kenyans are carrying a burden that is leading to the loss of their loved ones, their property and dignity.

It is most dehumanising when one has to watch helplessly as a loved one dies because you can’t afford the high cost of healthcare. To say the majority of Kenyans are suffering injustice in healthcare is an understatement. As Luther said, it is both shocking and inhumane.

It is all well and good for the creme de la creme of society to go to India and South Africa for treatment. But the poor must not be allowed to suffer this injustice. It is time heads rolled and government came up with a solution to this the problem.

 

The government should come up with a system where those who are well endowed contributed for the sake of their needy brothers and sisters. Let's face it, even the NHIF has not been of much help; the minimum Sh500 is still not affordable to a big number of Kenyans most of whom are jobless or earning peanuts.

The way the county governments are running facilities under them also need urgent scrutiny and remedial measures put in place.

The government must control the appetite of private medical facilities, including those run by churches, since some of their charges are not only exploitive but unfair.