What do we make of the state of affairs at Kenyatta National Hospital? What are we allowed to think? What are we supposed to think?
In the past few months, the hospital has faced quite a number of scandals thrown its way or rather, it has thrown quite a number of scandals our way. Raping of women who have just delivered as they go to the nurseries to breastfeed and the latest one being, the whole mixed up brain surgery fiasco.
My younger self looked at Kenyatta as this far off place. A place I wasn’t really allowed to care about. A place I heard of in matatus or when I would accompany my parents for tea at an aunt’s house.
I associated Kenyatta with whispers. A hushed tone and a coolness of speech. I associated Kenyatta with a craned neck, because I would crane mine to eavesdrop on the hushed conversation. I associated Kenyatta with an urgency. The hushed tones would start and end quite rapidly. Like a matchstick catching flame and going out burning itself whole. I often wondered if Kenyatta was Mzee Jomo’s home. Like how we said, ‘kwa Nzilani’ because Nzilani owned the flats in question.
Kenyatta has for a long time been a last resort to many. In the hushed tones between my mother and her sister, lay the idea that there was nowhere else to go. Kenyatta National Hospital: LAST RESORT.
Then came the huge influx of patients seeking medical attention and the nurses became overworked, poor service was the order of the hospital, staying in long queues was what patients had to grow accustomed to. I hadn’t experienced all this. The newspapers told me, the TV told me, the radio told me, the large lady with the Ghanaian braids in the matatu clutching a basket containing a thermos flask and several other miscellaneous objects told me.
Then it all seemed to change; beds were donated, now there would be fewer people sharing beds. There was the donation of equipment, there was the roll out of NHIF medical cover. People were required to go to their nearest health centre for treatment and only go to Kenyatta on referral, this reduced the human traffic. The setting up of the private wing.
I got to go to Kenyatta the other day. I am grown now, I have my ID and I can hold my alcohol. However, walking through the doors of the hospital and going up to the lifts and being elevated several floors up made me sick in the pit of my stomach. I was nauseous. Not because it was dirty, no. I guess I just have a weak stomach.
The glory of a country’s healthcare system is crowned by the praise on her people’s lips. Doctors going on strike, nurses going on strike, a reflection of incompetence on the part of the country’s largest Referral Hospital; all these serve to raise eyebrows and beg questions.
Kenyatta National Hospital. So help us God.