The stand-off between Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) and the Prisons Department over the treatment of murder suspect Joseph Irungu aka Jowie is in bad taste and risks jeopardising a high profile case.
KNH claims the department has incurred Sh31 million in unpaid bills and has vowed to turn away all cases referred to them from the prisons facilities.
Jowie is the main suspect in the gruesome murder of businesswoman Monica Kimani, 28, in Kilimani, Nairobi, in September. His co-accused TV anchor Jacque Maribe – who is his lover – is out on bond.
Jowie needs treatment (including possible surgery-for a gunshot wound he sustained in the house of his fiancé in Lang’ata. Police are still trying to resolve the jigsaw puzzle surrounding the shooting.
Because of its stature as a referral hospital- having the best equipment and personnel-all guests of the State in the city’s prisons, including Kamiti Maximum Prison and remand facilities, are treated at Kenyatta for chronic illnesses. And just like the prisons department, KNH is Government-owned. Ordinarily, it is expected that debt would accrue over some time, but not to levels where it puts justice at risk.
By any measure, KNH is a cog in the wheel of justice. It will therefore be remiss of KNH management to deny the prisoners some of who, like Jowie, deny the murder charges hanging over their heads, medical treatment for nonpayment of fees.
There is a real risk of mistrial should Jowie be unable to attend court for any reason including-and God forbid-death. His lawyers claim that his left hand is rotting.
That could be the reason why Jowie’s family is willing to pay from their pockets for his treatment. But because of prison protocol, the Prisons Department won’t allow this neither will KNH accept their money.
Tax-funded KNH should ensure that its staff adhere to the code of fair administration of justice, including treating Jowie and other suspects until proven guilty.
Crucially, the Government should investigate how the Prisons Department accumulated such a huge bill and whether any money set aside for treatment of inmates was misappropriate
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