NHIF working miracles for aging Kenyans

Richard Tombo, 85 and his wife Caren Ajwang' aged 80 who are beneficiaries of NHIF at their home in Kendubay, Homabay County. [Denish Ochieng/ Standard]
Every morning, 85-year-old Richard Tombo and his wife Karen Ajwang', 80, crawl out of their bed to ensure a small rectangular card is safe in their bedroom drawer.

They cannot afford to lose their National Hospital Insurance Fund card.

"This card means a lot to us. It is our saviour. We would be long dead were it not for it. It is our future," says Tombo.

Struggling with terminal illness and old age, the couple expresses its sense of security for being covered by the National Hospital Insurance Fund in the past five years.

Surrounded by many grandchildren, they smile in the hope that they will live to see many more years and enjoy their sunset days in good health.

They have been married for 63 years with ten children, several grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Ajwang' recalls the day she was diagnosed with Asthma 20 years ago and later duodenal ulcers and hypertension. The worst occurred when acute stroke affected her left side of the brain.                                                                                                                                                   “Sometimes we could not afford huge bills especially when admitted after an asthma attack, I could only buy painkillers which were never effective,” says Ajwang.

Interjecting, Tombo recalls how he struggled to fend for his family and foot hospital bills for his sick wife. He would also be diagnosed with hypertension five years after his Ajwang’s health weakened.

“I could not move, I was desperate that I couldn’t foot the bills. I was very sick. Fortunately my second born son intervened,” he recalls.

The last thing he ever wished for was to totally depend on his children to provide him with basic needs.

It is his son Kefa Ajwang 59, a retired banker, who came up with the idea of registering with NHIF.

 “I never imagined it was possible that with only a card I could access medical care,” his mother recounts. By then Ajwang had suffered a mild stroke and hospitalised for two weeks.

 “I was unconscious and when I woke up in the hospital I wondered how my son would raise funds for the bill of the two of us,” she says.

She could not believe her ears when Kefa told her she had been discharged and it was time to go home.

“He was holding an NHIF card in his hands, I asked him what it was and he told me he had used it to clear my bills. I was amazed”.

Ajwang did not believe it further when his son informed her that the same card had catered for his father’s bills.

Kefa pays Sh500 monthly from his pension for the health cover.  After his parents were enrolled as NHIF beneficiaries they have been admitted multiple times in hospital the NHIF card coming in handy.

Tombo has been put on daily drugs to control the blood pressure but with the card, he has never missed a dose.

“Given their age, it’s very unpredictable. They can fall sick any time,” Kefa says

  Earlier, Kefa said his parents were restricted to specific hospitals but not anymore under the new NHIF Super Cover.

“I do encourage my children and even grandchildren to enroll all their children, because I want them to be healthy all the time,” says Ajwang.

Now Kefa takes his parents for frequent checkups just to ensure that they are okay without having to worry about the cost.

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