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Senators puzzled by Kenyatta University, hospital row

 Senate Health Committee led by chairman Jackson Mandago tour Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Hospital. [Samson Wire, Standard]

The Kenyatta University and Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Hospital managements have been asked to resolve their differences to ensure that the more than 2,000 medical students have access to the ultra-modern facility.

The Senate Health Committee visited the institution on Monday following a petition by the Kenyatta University Students Association to the Government, the Chancellor, the University Council and Kenya University management for the unconditional return of the hospital's ownership to the university.

The petitions were filed by Jaafar Kasaya and Thiongo Muiruri on behalf of the Kenya University Students Association.

The petitioners said the university depends on other health facilities to train the medical students, yet they have a modern hospital within the university.

"Do we want to have a system that churns out half-baked doctors, the University of Nairobi has got Kenyatta National Hospital, Moi University has Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, why is Kenyatta University being denied Kenyatta University Teaching and Referral Hospital or there is more than meets the eye, are the same land cartels salivating on the university land still in operation," wondered Kasaya.

The Kenyatta University Students Association Treasurer said that KU conceptualized and proposed to establish the state-of-the-art teaching, training, research and referral hospital at the main campus.

He argued that the proposal for funding requests was sent to the Cabinet for approval and was accepted fully aware that the hospital was to be owned, run and managed by Kenyatta University.

Kasaya told the committee that the university has been offering health-related courses for a long time in different schools and in order to consolidate the training of medical professionals, it started the School of Health Sciences in 2004 with the aim of becoming a model for an academically based integrated health care delivery system.

Muiruri who is the Secretary General of Kenyatta University Students Association told the committee that despite KU's vision that led to the proposal, design, construction and equipping of the facility as a university hospital, its establishment as a stand-alone parastatal via a gazette notice No 4 of 2019 has jeopardised the entire medical education ecosystem.

He said the students now fear that the Medical School may be deregistered after the last audit by the East African Community National Medical and Dental Practitioners Board, which gave the university six months to put its house in order.

"Ladies and gentlemen the chicken have come home to roost, nothing has changed, we are aware that unless a miracle happens, many of us will be deregistered or will be forced to enrol afresh elsewhere to pursue our passion for medicine, even worse five years down the line, dark forces have conspired to deny us our right to be taught fully having been denied access to use the hospital," said Muiruri.

Kenyatta University Vice Chancellor Paul Wainaina said that the management intended that the hospital other than serving as a national referral centre would also aid medical students during clinical training and research.

Prof Wainaina told the committee that every morning the medical students have to wake up at 4 am and travel close to 40km to Kiambu Level Five Hospital which is under-resourced and overcrowded for their clinical training.

"Kenya University had a business plan in place to run Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital where it could be under Chief Executive Officer answerable to the university, we were pained that the facility had been taken away from us and we cannot access it," he said.

The Vice-Chancellor said they want their medical students to be allowed unfettered access to the facility so that they can be able to practice and get the necessary experience.

The Hospital Management Board Chairperson Olive Mugenda told the committee that the facility remained unutilized for three years before she took over.

Prof Mugenda said the university was previously represented by three board members in the hospital before it was changed to one after it became a parastatal.

She denied locking out medical students saying they were free to conduct practical lessons in the facility.

"I was the Vice Chancellor of Kenyatta University when the building of this hospital was conceptualized and started. I would also like to tell this committee that I have nothing personal against Prof Wainaina who served as my Deputy. I would like to see our two institutions working in a harmonious manner," said Prof Mugenda.

Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago wondered whether the university was consulted before the facility was made a Level Six Hospital and turned into a parastatal.

Murang'a Senator Joseph Nyutu said the university built the hospital on its land.

Nominated Senator Esther Okenyuri said it was ironic that the hospital still wants to maintain the university name but does not want to be associated with it.

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