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War Memorial hospital officials query county bid as row deepens

  Nakuru War Memorial Hospital. The hospital, which has been in operation for 101 years, had a lease that expired in 2023. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The ownership dispute over the prime land on which Nakuru War Memorial Hospital sits, deepened after the court allowed the facility directors to challenge its takeover by the county government.

Dr Simon Mwangi moved to court, on behalf of members of the War Memorial Hospital board which owns the private health facility, questioning its takeover and closure, four days after the county government moved in.

At the heart of the legal battle is ownership of the 11.5 hectares of prime land valued at Sh1 billion, which the hospital board says has a valid legal lease of 50 years.

On Tuesday evening, after obtaining temporary stay orders from Justice Millicent Odeny of the Nakuru Environment and Lands Court, Mwangi mobilised 50 hospital staff in an attempt to return to the facility.

Their efforts were, however, thwarted by County Secretary Samuel Mwaura, the County Executive Committee Member for Land John Kihagi and county enforcement officers who rejected the court order and barred them from accessing the hospital.

Justice Odeny’s exparte orders suspended the decision by Nakuru Land Registry to cancel the Certificate of Lease held by the War Memorial on May 19, 2023. “The national and county governments are restrained from investigating or revoking the lease on the land,” ruled Odeny.

The judge granted the hospital 21 days to file a formal application before court, challenging cancellation of the lease. She also granted the hospital staff permission to operate until the case is filed and heard in court. “The applicant (War Memorial) has leave to operate as a stay until the substantive application against the takeover is filed,” ruled the judge.

The order gives the War Memorial possession of the hospital and Annex, which is under the county government since they occupy the same land.

On Friday last week, the county government, on the strength of the decision of the county assembly resolution, took over the hospital and shut it down on claims it was standing on public land.

The hospital was then placed under the management of Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital Annex. Of 18 patients being attended to at the hospital, nine were transferred to PGH-Annex, which is adjacent to the War Memorial. 

To lock out the 50 staff from the facility, the county government erected a new gate and deployed enforcement officers to man it. On Tuesday evening, there was a heated exchange between Dr Mwangi and Dr Mwaura over the court order, as the latter insisted the order had to be verified first.

“Cases of fake orders are not new in Nakuru City. Because we were not present in court, we need first to confirm whether the order is authentic,” said Mwaura.

However, when a court process server arrived, Mwaura declined to receive the order. The director and the court server tried to pin the orders on Mwaura’s vehicle, but they were unsuccessful. They later pinned it at the hospital’s gate.

“We have served the orders to the county attorney, and we tried to do the same to the county secretary, but he refused. We will now seek legal redress,” said Mwangi.

Mwaura, then stormed out of the facility at around 5pm, leaving the staff and youths chanting ‘Haki yetu’.

On Wednesday, hundreds of youth protested on the streets of Nakuru City and ended up at the contested hospital, where they condemned the court for siding with the directors of War Memorial Hospital.

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