For the past two days, nurses at Bondo sub-County Hospital have received praise and criticism after buying a hearse.
When an official from the county’s department of communication innocently shared a picture of the acting Chief Officer for Health Eunice Fwaya commissioning a hearse bought by the Bondo Nurses Welfare Association, they had no idea what reaction it would elicit.
The caption of the post indicated that the nurses were celebrating the ‘investment’ - a hearse which they had acquired after years of saving.
And boom! A debate erupted on social media, with Kenyans discussing the irony of professionals in the business of saving lives choosing to invest in a hearse.
“Why invest in a hearse when their profession is about saving lives. Nurses should have ventured into a business that enhances life and not hearse business. I propose an ambulance,” wrote one Facebook user.
Another one wrote: “Now they will need more corpses to maintain their business which means saving lives will result in a reduction in earnings,” posted yet another.
Rodgers Ochieng, a resident, wondered if the nurses were foreseeing some good business. “Does it mean that Covid-19 might lead to many deaths?” he posed.
When The Standard caught up with the nurses union officials yesterday, they were still reeling from the shock of how their innocent idea could have been misunderstood.
According to association chairman Dominic Omollo, the nurses began contributing money towards the initiative in 2017.
And by last week, the mission was accomplished when the Sh2.8 million hearse was delivered. According to the nurses, the hearse cost Sh2.4 million while Sh400,000 catered for its fitting.
“This investment is not for business. Our mission was to have a long-term solution to the problem of transporting bodies of our members for burials every time we are faced with the unfortunate,” said Omollo.
In an interview yesterday, Omollo said that they have been spending a lot of money to ferry bodies of their colleagues, with Kisumu as the nearest place to get a hearse.
“We had to get a hearse to ferry the body of our colleague from Bondo to Kisii and we spent up to Sh24,000. This is how we hatched the idea of buying our own hearse in order to cut down on costs as well as give our departed colleagues a decent send-off,” explained Omollo.
He added:” The hearses that we have around are few and always booked such that getting them sometimes becomes a challenge. That is why we decided to get our own for convenience.”
But the association’s official blame the public for bashing them without accurate information, saying that this was a noble idea and not a money-minting venture from patients.
“We swore an oath to save lives and there’s no way we can “kill patients” in order to get money from our hearse. If it is a matter of business, we can even take the hearse to Kisumu and not here in Bondo,” he explained, adding that the idea was first discussed with the county government before it was implemented.
Omollo also hinted that nurses in the county had made contributions towards buying a bus for staff.
“Many institutions have bought vans and buses for their staff and I don’t see anything wrong if we buy a hearse,” he argued, adding that with the hearse, they’ll only need to fuel it whenever one of their members die.
“We applaud our nurses as they continue to save lives during this Covid-19 pandemic. Just like any other group of people, they are entitled to engage in welfare associations to supplement their welfare programmes. It is hoped that this venture is well thought through and will not distract them from the noble calling to continuously save lives,” said Auscar Wambiya, Siaya County Government acting director of communications.