If you do not have money, you will not get a coronavirus test done, not even at government facilities.
This is the harsh reality that an undercover KTN News crew came to terms with as they went to Mbagathi, Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) and Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) in order to verify allegations that Kenyans had made regarding these institutions.
The team visited Mbagathi Infectious Disease Unit on July 10 seeking Covid-19 testing at the facility.
The reporter and video journalist came across a healthcare worker fully donned in personal protective gear, with nothing visible except his eyes.
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At this first tent, his main task is to make sure one gets to sanitise their hands as he checks from a distance, with his gun thermometer, whether one has a fever or not before their details can be captured.
“We are no longer testing anymore. Go to Kemri, they might be testing or KNH but you will have to pay Sh5,000,” he said.
This left the crew wondering what all the screening was about if no testing or admission is happening. Nonetheless, they decided to follow instructions and try their luck at the other institutions.
At Gate 2 as they figured their way out, they met a family which was stranded and frustrated because of this piece of information.
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A man, who appeared to be in his early 40s, claimed that they had had a family member who had tested positive for the coronavirus and they were seeking testing to determine their status.
A woman in her mid 30s had an active dry cough, but despite this obvious sign, there was no testing for her, for the two children and another woman in their company.
She looked obviously unwell with the active cough, and uncertainty and anxiety was painted all over her face. But there was nothing that could be done at Mbagathi. They headed to Kemri too, as advised.
At the Kemri gates, they were turned away. Early on in the week, Kemri had sent out a notice that they would no longer be carrying out tests for walk-in clients.
Here though, the KTN News crew met more than 40 people who claimed to be truck drivers camping at the gates seeking certificates for the tests that they had done previously.
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Some, visibly frustrated, said they had been there since the previous day, but nothing was forthcoming from the institution’s reference laboratory.
A man, who had taken advantage of the president’s announcement to ease travel restrictions had come all the way to get a food handlers’ certificate by getting some tests done, including that of Covid-19.
Being someone who works in a hotel, this was necessary and mandatory to enable him report back to work, but like everyone else, this was not going to be possible at Kemri. He was asked to try his luck at KNH.
The KTN reporters and everyone else who had been turned away from these places promptly headed to KNH hoping that things will be better. But they only got worse.
At the national health facility, it appeared as though if you have no money for the test, whether you are dying or not, no testing will be done. No one seemed to attend to anyone even if they have the classic signs and symptoms of the virus.
The family at Mbagathi was expected to pay Sh35,000 on the spot for its seven members to be swabbed and tested. Frustrated, they gave up and returned home to face the consequences of the virus if at all one of them had it.
The KNH Covid-19 Section had many people, some seeking testing and others coming to pick their results. Many others were turned away for lack of money.
One of the staffers attending to this group of people asked the KTN crew whether they had money for the test. Only those with money were welcomed and shown how to make payment before proceeding to the next step of swabbing for the test.
“Without Sh5,000, there will be no tests. If you have it, pay then proceed to the next tent where details will be captured and then the sample taken.”
To get the result of the test, one has to wait for up to five days, according to the information given. If lucky, the result can come earlier, but there is no guarantee.
The question lingering in the minds of many Kenyans who have gone through this experience is whether the government is overwhelmed and has lost the fight against the pandemic.
WHO recommends that health officials should be able to test, isolate and trace all contacts of people with the coronavirus if the pandemic is to be contained.