Resolve KU's tiff with hospital for sake of students


Kenyatta University Teaching Referral and Hospital on July 31, 2023. [Samson Wire, Standard]

An African saying teaches us that when two bulls fight the grass suffers. That is exactly what has been happening to medical students at Kenyatta University amid a fierce contest pitting Vice Chancellor Prof Paul Wainaina against his predecessor, Prof Olive Mugenda over the ownership and management of Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital.

The tussle has played out for a considerable period of time to the detriment of students, forcing some to go to Kiambu Institute of Studies and Kiambu Referral Hospital for practical studies. Those who cannot afford transport have been left hanging. 

Yet, within their compound, there is a level six 650-bed hospital equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment, which should offer them opportunities to get the best education, research and training to prepare them for the challenges of the 21st century medical world.

At the core is whether the hospital should be run by the university as was the case before 2019 when it was made a parastatal vide a legal notice issued by then President Uhuru Kenyatta or remain under a board chaired by Prof Mugenda.

While Attorney General Justin Muturi has sought to offer a legal opinion on the matter, we note he has come out with two contrary opinions in a span of under one month, a move likely to cloud the matter.

While appearing before the National Assembly Public Investment Committee on Education and Governance last month, the AG stated that the move to make the Sh8.6 billion facility a parastatal was irregular since there was need to amend the Health Act 2017.

He termed as unacceptable the fact that students have to go to Kiambu to do research but noted that the National Assembly had already given the Executive six months to revert the hospital to the university. 

But on Wednesday, he told the Senate Health Committee, it was properly established as a parastatal via the same legal notice, which he said is anchored on the Health Act, and advised the hospital and the university to make appropriate arrangements so that the facility can be used for medical research as envisaged.

It would appear the tussle is grounded on competing interests, whose form we do not know yet, which, if true, should not be the case since any public entity should serve the national interest.

We note Prof Mugenda has expressed their willingness to accommodate the first cohort of 100 medical students from KU, a move in the right direction.

We call on both the board and the university management to borrow a leave from the University of Nairobi and Kenyatta National Hospital.

Under their arrangement, KNH today hosts the oldest medical school in Kenya - UoN’s College of Health Sciences, and other training and medical research institutions, and no disagreements have been witnessed.