Restore the prestige of Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH)

Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) is not living up to its billing. The hospital is acknowledged as the largest referral public hospital in the East and Central African region yet its services continue to be dire.

An impromptu visit by Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu on Tuesday revealed this sorry state of affairs at the institution which, in a way, has a direct bearing on the rising costs of medicare. The misery, the desperation and death of the poor, who largely depend on subsidised services at Government hospitals and mostly, KNH, has been documented. Kidney and cancer patients are the most affected. Statistics show that at least 1,000 cancer patients are on a two-year waiting list at KNH. It is unrealistic to expect someone with an advanced case of cancer to wait, or even survive that long without treatment.

Sadly, less financially-endowed patients have no alternative. For example, while private clinics charge as much as Sh10,000 per session of dialysis or chemo treatment, KNH charges less than half that amount translating to great savings to patients and their families.

Complaints of patients not being attended to because of employee lethargy (attributed to poor working conditions and lack of beds) are too common at KNH. When only one of the six machines at the Central Sterile Services Department is working with little or no effort being made to repair the other broken machines, it becomes a clear case of mismanagement.

Yet it is too much to expect that KNH, on its own, will handle all referral cases. The impact of last year’s launch of a Sh38 billion medical equipment supply for county hospitals should have eased off the pressure on KNH. That has not happened yet.

That, and the apparent case of mismanagement at the region’s biggest public referral hospital will continue to be an embarrassing wart in the country’s health sector. Something ought to be done, soonest.