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Why Nairobi women opt for shady medical clinics

Health & Science

NAIROBI: Poor women insist on dangerous private medical clinics because workers in public facilities are arrogant or absent and the queues are too long.

This finding was according to a recent survey in Nairobi.

On Tuesday the Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board Daniel Yumbya called on women to avoid low-quality private clinics for better staffed and equipped public facilities.

Yumbya was responding to claims that a bogus gynecologist had been caught on camera mishandling a patient.

Women responded saying they know this too well, but it is only that  public health workers are too disrespectful and the irritation of spending the whole day in a queue, only to be told there are no drugs, is real.

All they want is to be treated with decorum.

In the same research, a woman from Mathari explained that she visited a public clinic after her contraceptive method had failed, only to be rudely told, “woman, don’t be foolish.”

Such things, she recently told researchers, were making many women opt for private facilities where they get to be treated with respect.

“They should respect us and address us like adults and not insult us.”

These comments  are contained in a study published on August 20 in the journal BMC Health Services Research, carried out by the Nairobi-based African Population Health Research Centre and the University of California, US and led by Dr Sirina R. Keesara.

The researchers followed some 90 women for five months in Mathari slum in Nairobi, covering 125 healthcare facilities where 84 per cent were private and only 47 per cent had licences.


Most of the women said it was unlikely to find a preferred contraceptive out of stock at a private clinic, as is the case in public facilities.

However, they told of incidents where private clinics had administered counterfeit and expired medications to clients.

“In public facilities the doctors are qualified but in private outlets it could be a quack, or the doctor might be qualified, but he could be using his wife to assist him, and the wife is not qualified,” said a woman questioned in the report.

The team concluded that despite high quality of medical treatment at public facilities, the women face long queues and disrespectful staff pushing them to dangerous private operators.

A study of Kenyans’ health care seeking behaviour presented to the Ministry of Health last year and carried out by the UK, showed that long waiting times in the public sector was mainly a result of workers’ absenteeism.

It found that almost a third of health workers in the public sector are absent from place of work at any given time.

“Workers at public health centres were three times more likely to be absent than those at private or non-profit facilities.”

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