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Governor Waiguru ran down health sector, two doctors tell House

Dr Gor Goody after testifying during the hearing of Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru at County Hall, Nairobi, on 23/06/2020. [Boniface Okendo,Standard]

Former Kirinyaga Health Executive Dr Agnes Gachoki and Kenya Practitioners Medical and Dentists Union (KPMDU) secretary for Central region Dr Gor Goody boldly registered their frustrations after engaging Ann Waiguru to address a healthcare crisis that increased mortality in the county.

They accused the governor of ordering closure of 20 dispensaries and sacking 400 casual health works, which triggered industrial action by nurses and doctors.

“Leadership is something the governor does not understand because ... leadership is different from dictatorship. The governor dictates what is going to be done and you just comply. The CECs are just there to do what the governor has directed,” said Gachoki, who resigned after she was allegedly ordered to shut down the deplorable dispensaries.

“What broke the camel’s back is we talked with governor and chief officer Health to employ more health workers because of natural attrition of staff but she didn’t act,” she said.

Gachoki claimed that because of work overload, some healthcare workers, who were working without leave, suffered miscarriages.

“I was shocked when the governor told me to go ahead to close the dispensaries. I think it was not her priority. I could not because it was a step backwards to Universal Healthcare (UHC), championed by the president,” she told the Senate select committee looking into the ouster of the governor.

“I tendered my resignation and a new CEC was hired after more than a year.”

Gachoki also informed the committee that the procurement of a new healthcare management system, authorised by Waiguru, was not warranted as there was an existing one installed by the national government but not activate.  

“The Health chief officer and I told the governor of the already existing one. We didn’t requisition,” she said in the Sh50 million tender probe to Velocity Partners Company.

“It was never installed until to date. It is really very sad... Kirinyaga County, even after devolution, residents are still going to Embu and Nyeri counties for health (services).”

Waiguru’s lawyer Paul Nyamodi and colleagues, however, demanded to know from Gachoki if the tender was done by the governor directly, to which she responded: “The user department didn’t requisition for the system.”

Personal interest

Nyamodi, who is the lead counsel, sought to know if Gachoki played any role in the impeachment of the governor.

“I am not a politician, I am here as a professional. It has been all over the media. I am a resident of Kirinyaga... every information coming to the county affects me directly,” she stated. “When I resigned, this was the information given to EACC. As a former CEC of Kirinyaga, I am giving evidence to show how the governor ran down Kirinyaga County health sector.”

Gachoki painted a picture of an ‘I-don’t-care leader’ when she narrated her ordeal with the governor after securing a donor project. “Due to my experience of over 20 years in the medical field, I got trusted donors, who agreed to construct an eye unit funded by Operation Eye Sight at a cost of Sh20 million and equipment, but the governor mistreated them during the opening ceremony,” she said.

“The donors, based in Canada, travelled to Kenya, arrived and boarded a bus to Kirinyaga. The governor said it was impossible to see them and I had to cancel the trip and incur their expenditure.”

Gachoki told senators when the donors visited the hospital, she was frustrated and pleaded with the CEO to attend to them.

“This led to some disappointment with donors, yet the hospital serves people from all over the region,” she stated.

Senator Stewart Madzayo sought to know if Gachoki did know Dr Goody. “I didn’t ask you to explain,” Madzayo added, shutting down the witness.

He then charged: “As a former Kirinyaga CEC, you made a lot of requests, which were not done. You felt a bit dejected. Now you want to get back at the governor for failing to implement your requests.”

Gachoki assured the senator that she held no bitterness, as she had taken oath to save lives as a doctor, including that of anyone who harms her family.

Senators yesterday turned hostile to the witnesses, demanding that they substantiate the allegations adduced before the committee by the MCAs.

Put on defence

Goody was put on the defensive by the senators and Waiguru’s lawyers.

Nominated Senator Judy Pareno took Goody to task to explain whether the deplorable situation in the health facilities led to high mortality rate.

Her attempts to implore the lawmakers to get the actual data from the Health ministry and county department fell on deaf ears. She almost found herself on the receiving end.

An effort by lawyer Ndegwa Njiru to come to her rescue by explaining that the cross-examination was not a trial process only attracted the wrath of Waiguru’s lawyers.

Senators Paul Githiomi, Michael Mbito and Beatrice Kwamboka demanded to know from Goody why the 400 casual workers were sacked by Waiguru.

Githiomi challenged Goody to advise the committee how Kirinyaga people could get quality healthcare services in the mist of the crisis. “Good leadership and effective management is important. Counties are young but can handle their best,” she said.

Vice chair Abshiro Halakhe led the interrogation in which Goody and Gachoki had a difficult time convincing the senators.

“I am here to speak about the dilapidated healthcare system on behalf of 457 health workers in Kirinyaga. I am a doctor and a union leader,” she told the committee.

“Since 2017, when the governor was elected, the healthcare in Kirinyaga has been in deplorable condition. We have exhausted all avenues to address the situation but the governor has done nothing.”

She recalled how at one point the governor called security officers to teargas health workers who sought audience with her over welfare matters.

Mutira MCA David Kinyua, who is the sponsor of the Motion, said the impeachment was the last option.

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