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Why all Kenyans are guilty of doctors’ deaths and suffering

By Clay Muganda | December 13th 2020


In the middle of the week, another Kenyan doctor died from Covid-19 and as is the norm, Kenyans’ episodic outrage kicked in and dissipated within hours and they went their merry way to talk about constitutional amendments and wheelbarrows.

For the past few months, deaths of Kenyan doctors have been talked about more than ever, probably more times than in the past 50 years because they are victims of the State.

They are dying from a disease they contract while on duty — due to government’s callousness and inability to think like an entity whose job is to improve lives of Kenyans and not perpetuate corruption, poverty and destitution. That Kenyan doctors are dying due to lack of personal protective equipment during a pandemic is bad enough, and it is worse when this is happening nine months after the first case of the disease was reported here.

Nine months ago, it would have been understandable because several governments were caught flatfooted by the pandemic and were struggling to cope. Then, the demand for protective equipment outstripped supply globally and even some First World countries were struggling with cases, deaths and burial spaces.

Even then, it could not have been right since a government run by right-thinking individuals must have a playbook for any kind of emergency, and protecting people in the first line of defence, must be the priority.

But this is not the first time doctors are crying about working conditions, and that includes pay which they feel is not commensurate with their years of study, expertise and workload. Their cries have often gone unheard, and many are the times when the noise made by Kenyans castigating them is so loud that the doctors cannot even hear the wails of their patients. For that, they are branded callous and told they are only after money and not saving lives.

Doctors, more so those in public hospitals have been suffering because Kenyans have enabled politicians let things deteriorate to the level where healthcare workers go for months without pay and when they take industrial action, they are threatened with being sacked or doctors are flown in from other countries. And Kenyans applaud the government, directly by calling doctors names, or indirectly by not taking to task the people they elected to represent them. They do not ask them why they do not take their oversight role seriously, and censure the Executive when it is killing Kenyans with poor policies and ill-informed decisions.

For years, more so since 2013, Kenyan doctors have endured what no other professional in a public institution should go through. They have been victims of ill-mannered thieving politicos, enabled by Kenyans, who trample on professionals’ rights and deny them what they deserve.

In 2013, when a man was plucked from a banking hall and planted at the Health Ministry, a few right-minded Kenyans, and mostly doctors, asked why, but they were shouted out of town by over-zealous digital bandits in government, guesswork-oriented political analysts on the streets and coldhearted and hair-brained gutless legislators.

Doctors, like a few Kenyans who think with their heads not mouths, and who deliberately have no political hair on their chests, had hoped that with a new political leadership, and a younger one at that, things would be better. It was thought that their style of governance would not be antediluvian, but modern, at least close to close to 21st century way of life. But it would not be so.  

Of course, Afya House needs a good manager and not necessarily a doctor, but would it not be better if that manager understands the working conditions of doctors and shares their values or mission of saving lives?

Even during an era when Kenya was deemed to be governed poorly, political appointees at Afya House were mainly doctors. That is not to say things were any better, but the current situation is lower than the lowest it has ever been; the nadir of incompetence and the epitome of heartlessness fuelled by corruption.

Then, there was no such thing like public vetting of nominees by Parliament, something that is a charade, an event when politicians show their loyalty to their party bosses, the Executive, by rubberstamping every Macharia, Mailu and Kariuki, not because they have shown they will get the job done but because they have been nominated. To the legislators, it is not about doing their job of keeping the Executive in check, and working for Kenyans, it is about not going against the wishes of the appointing authority. So disappointing.

Then there are Kenyans who cheer them on the sidelines, shouting that there was public vetting, and not understanding that vetting in public, on national TV, is totally different from public vetting. And so, Kenyan doctors will continue to suffer, others will die in the line of duty, even after working for months without pay, and poorer Kenyans will keep on wailing for their loved ones  as long as politicians think they are gods, and Kenyans continue to worship them. Oh yes, the government is killing doctors and Kenyan voters are accessories to these murders.

-The writer is an editor at The Standard

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