RIGHT TO HEALTHCARE

Three cancer patients die, one not RIP

Esther was denied treatment at KNH for failing to pay Sh1,950.

In Summary

• While Kenyans heard of Laboso and Okoth receiving treatment in London and India, in Esther’s case, she had to endure further suffering for lack of money to pay for her treatment.

Article 43 (1) (a) in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution provides that, “every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to health care services, including reproductive health care.”

In human rights language and standards across the world, it is the fundamental duty of the state to ensure rights are enjoyed. As a matter of fact, the Constitution provides in Article 21 (1) that “It is a fundamental duty of the State and every State organ to observe, respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights.”

In the last few days, cancer has claimed the lives of leaders that we looked up to. We pay tribute to Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso and Kibra MP Ken Okoth. Our condolences go to their families and friends. Laboso was amongst the first few women governors Kenya had and Okoth was a gallant crusader of human rights who worked with organisations such as Haki Africa to push through crucial bills, including the Prevention of Torture Act. The two leaders fought a gallant fight against cancer but unfortunately succumbed to the killer disease.

While we mourn our leaders, somewhere in Nairobi another family is mourning a beloved one. Esther Wambui also succumbed to cancer while receiving treatment at Kenyatta National Hospital. However, Esther’s battle with cancer is far different from that of Laboso and Okoth.

While no one can underplay the pain and agony the three must have gone through, Esther’s last few days involved a horrible experience of having to be chased away from hospital, using public means while in pain and lacking other basic necessities, including proper diet. Her death was accompanied with the hardships of poverty and lack of adequate support to battle her ailment.

While Kenyans heard of Laboso and Okoth receiving treatment in London and India, in Esther’s case, she had to endure further suffering for lack of money to pay for her treatment. In a video that went viral, Esther’s sister Gladys Mwihaki was recorded crying while holding on to her sick sister who was denied treatment at Kenyatta National Hospital for failing to pay Sh1,950.

It is reported that on the day Esther was chased away from the hospital, a good Samaritan heard of her plight and offered Sh3,000. With her sister, they went back to the hospital and paid the required amount, and Esther was admitted.

However, according to Mwihaki, by that time it was too late and after a while, Esther sadly passed away. Even after death, Esther is still suffering as her body remains in the morgue with the hospital authorities refusing to release it until the family pays an outstanding bill of over Sh200,000. It would seem the fangs of poverty are not letting Esther rest in peace.

The case of the two leaders compared with that of Esther shows the huge disparity in healthcare in Kenya. All the three suffered more or less the same ailment around the same time but went through different tribulations.

If indeed the Constitution guarantees the highest attainable standard of health, then in the case of Esther, the state failed miserably. That the national referral hospital would chase away a cancer patient over Sh1,950 speaks volumes of our horrible health system.

While no one can underplay the pain and agony the three must have gone through, Esther’s last few days involved a horrible experience of having to be chased away from hospital, using public means while in pain and lacking other basic necessities, including proper diet. Her death was accompanied with the hardships of poverty and lack of adequate support to battle her ailment.

If indeed the Constitution guarantees the highest attainable standard of health, then in the case of Esther, the state failed miserably. That the national referral hospital would chase away a cancer patient over Sh1,950 speaks volumes of our horrible health system.

As a country, we must immediately assess our healthcare system and devise ways to ensure minimum standards for all. A right guaranteed in the Constitution must be enjoyed by each person, irrespective of their position and financial status. Holding on to bodies must be a thing of the past with no place in modern-day Kenya.

As Kenyans, we must always remember that a society is not judged by how it treats its rich, powerful and mighty but by how it treats its weak, poor and underprivileged. Judging by how Esther was treated and continues to be treated even in death, Kenya is indeed an appalling society.