HEALTHCARE

Graft virus is CS Kagwe's quagmire

Tender rigging did not begin with the Jubilee era. But the times have seen a massive rise of 'tenderpreneurs', whose strength is patronage.

In Summary

• Viral impunity has always impaired the ministry's capacity to offer quality healthcare.

•  Corruption is a systemic pandemic, which the CS must address, even as Kenya fumbles to contain further infections and prevent deaths.     

Graft virus is CS Kagwe's quagmire
Graft virus is CS Kagwe's quagmire
Image: OZONE

Coronavirus has given Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe a dramatic welcome to Afya House.

The welcome muddles reform priorities the CS had for the critical service docket.    Covid-19, as the World Health Organization has named the virus, causing infections and deaths across the world, tests Kenya's disaster preparedness.  

Viral impunity has always impaired the ministry's capacity to offer quality healthcare. Corruption is a systemic pandemic, which the CS must address, even as Kenya fumbles to contain further infections and prevent deaths.      

 
 

Tender rigging did not begin with the Jubilee era. But the times have seen a massive rise of 'tenderpreneurs', whose strength is patronage. They exploit connections to rig the system. Brokers, the lethal handle of impunity, will take out anyone who stands between them and money.

Kagwe is getting into a ministry, which insiders describe as a den of cartels. The CS should listen more before he settles down. Such feedback may anchor his vision. Much like competence-based learning, 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary schools, and university reforms define Prof George Magoha's diary as Education Cabinet Secretary.       

A health sector insider shared his brushes with brokers:  It's the seventh year of the Daniel Moi presidency - 1985. A doctor, still believing in the sanctity of the Hippocratic Oath, is doing his first year at the then Nyanza Provincial General Hospital, Kisumu.    

Kagwe is getting into a ministry, which insiders describe as a den of cartels. The CS should listen more before he settles down. Such feedback may anchor his vision.
Okech kendo

A cleaner at the facility had noticed the doctor was social. The cleaner treated him as a senior he could trust. The cleaner had children in school. He needed to keep this job. The man knew the difference between hydrogen peroxide and water. He could tell one from the other by the way the liquids reacted when splashed on a dirt-stained floor.   

One morning the cleaner told the doctor he suspected what was supplied was water, instead of hydrogen peroxide - the chemical they use to clean floors and toilets.  The cleaner told the doctor the sanitation supervisor had complained of stains and smell of drugs waffling around the hospital, even after cleaning. Cleaners had been warned they would be dismissed if they could not work.    

The cleaner said nothing had changed in the way they worked. They were using the same detergent they had always used to disinfect the facility. The cleaner needed somebody he could confide in.

"Doctor, I am not sure what we are using to clean the floors is the detergent we have always used," he had started.

 
 

"What? But we had a year's worth of supplies of hydrogen peroxide a week ago? Don't tell me you have run out of stock," the doctor replied.   

 The cleaner excused himself to collect a sample of the detergent. When he returned, he told the doctor the content of the gallon wasn't hydrogen peroxide.

"But it's labelled 'Hydrogen Peroxide'  - made in Nairobi, Industrial Area, Bondeni Road,  can't you read?"  the doctor said, appearing to doubt the cleaner.   

The cleaner poured the liquid into his hand and licked it. He swallowed the liquid twice. The chemical is labelled, 'Not for human consumption'.  The cleaner knew the taste of hydrogen peroxide. This wasn't genuine, but suppliers had been paid.   

Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical compound  - pale blue, clear liquid, slightly more viscous than water. It is used as an oxidiser, bleaching urgent, and antiseptic. The cleaner used it as a disinfectant and stain remover on hospital floors, bathrooms, and toilets.      

The young doctor reported the breach of a supplier tender to the ministry headquarters at Afya House. When he was summoned to Nairobi, he was told to concentrate on his work. The senior officer he reported to, always knew what the cleaner told the doctor.  The Afya House senior got a house bought for him in Lavington, Nairobi. Tenderpreneurs are violent: They buy your silence or kill you.

During his eight-month stay in Kisumu, the doctor got an anonymous midnight call. The caller told him, "We are coming for you tomorrow at midnight."     

The doctor had the police around his residence for two nights. The visitors did not come, but the doctor got the message: Don't  mess with brokers. The doctor applied for leave. Two days later, he got another job in Nairobi. He had to flee Kisumu.     

Waziri Kagwe, senior officers will engage you in the boardroom to divert your attention.    Some insurance firms allocate Sh3,000 toman hospital to treat a family of six. Too bad when the insured fall sick. When they don't, you reap. It's a gamble.    

Healthcare is a money-minting business for cartels. Some misdiagnose and admit patients to reap from insurance firms. A  struggling family got a Sh1 million bill for a pre-term infant. The infant died in the incubator nine days after admission to a hospital in Nairobi South. How much care does an infant, barely 1.3kg, need to justify a Sh1 million bill in nine days?

This was Sh100,000 a day, or Sh4,116 per hour, even when the kid was sleeping. A slap in the face of the young family that hoped for healthcare with a conscience.