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For all the vitriol against county governments, healthcare is working

By Kamotho Waiganjo | May 11th 2019 | 3 min read

There can be no dispute that in many respects, Kenya is in a sorry state. At the economic level the average Kenyan is struggling from shrunken real incomes competing against the increased cost of living and rising inflation. We are overwhelmed by Chinese and other debts. Corruption thrives undeterred by all the threats against it. At the social and family level, stories abound of extreme dysfunction, including violence and murder of persons within traditionally protective relationships. Politically we quietened one part of the country with a handshake only to unravel the calm in another with allegations of betrayal. In this context, it is gratifying to interact with positive events that speak of kindness, humanity and hope.

So today I turn away from the mire and sludge to share some positive experiences I underwent this last week. On Saturday, a friend was involved in a terrible accident while on a bike somewhere on the Nairobi-Nakuru highway. In those sort of circumstances, anything can go wrong, and it starts with who turns up at your moment of need. For this reason, the first thing I want to celebrate is the passersby who stopped and assisted my injured friend. They were quick, they tried to be careful, and went beyond the call of duty in their assistance. Among the good Samaritans was Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen who happened to be driving by.

The Senator and the wananchi who stopped not only delivered my friend to the nearest medical centre but stayed long enough to ensure he received basic care. They even ordered an ambulance so that he could be taken to a more equipped hospital. They accessed his phone and contacted friends so that the latter could take over the required care. Pending the arrival of relatives, they left someone looking after him and managing his calls. This may sound like routine stuff, but I have seen many situations where the focus of the passersby in an accident is pilferage with little concern for the fate of the injured.

The second positive occurrence was the care given to my friend at the County hospital in Naivasha town. When I heard my friend had been taken to a government hospital, my first reaction was fear and trepidation. I once took some accident victims to a government hospital and was shocked to the core by the neglect, unconcern and lack of care notwithstanding the severe nature of the injury. But this time, by the time we got to Naivasha, two hours after the accident, my friend had received basic care including x-rays and effective pain management. The hospital may not have been The Aga Khan and their ambulance could be more patient-friendly, but the emergency unit was clean, airy and the equipment looked taken care of. The charges for their various services were nominal and manageable by the average Kenyan and were not used as a bar to basic treatment.

The team in the hospital, who comprised largely of ladies, (I wish I had taken their names) were professional, competent, polite and efficient, not just with our patient but the stream of emergency cases that kept streaming in. May the Almighty visit them and their families.

For all the vitriol against county governments, this was heartening and part of the untold story about devolution. It made me think that the clamour for returning healthcare to the National government is not informed by facts but is pushed more by interests seeking control of lucrative procurement than improving healthcare.

The national trade unions, whose fortunes have dwindled after decentralising the health workforce have their agenda too. In any event, the goings on at some hospitals the National government is in charge of, including KNH do not live one with abounding confidence. Granted, even in healthcare, not all counties have done well and my short experience may not be a sufficient judge of all the goings on at that particular hospital. But the care we got and the experiences with the good Samaritans left me gratified and hopeful.

- The writer is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya

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