Irony of patient defender felled by the broken system he tried to fix


Irony of patient defender felled by the broken system he tried to fix

The impact of social media on access to feedback from our patients has been immense.

The impact of social media on access to feedback from our patients has been immense. A lot of the times it is not flattering to the doctor or hospitals but we can hear our clients loud and clear.

Occasionally, doctors have borne severe mud-slinging on various platforms from the public. The tone sometimes makes one wonder whether doctors are even human.

Well, doctors are human after all. Illness knows no profession. And in sickness we are just as vulnerable. Five days ago, as the country woke up to vote or abstain from voting, the medical community woke up to yet another deep loss. We had lost Dr Allan Makokha of Kwale County.

Many elite Kenyans may not understand the impact of his death, but those who understand poverty will be mourning for weeks. I first knew of Dr Makokha as a young medical student.

Soft-spoken and easy-going, he was a brilliant young doctor destined to go places. He completed his training and was posted to Kwale County, the poorest county in the coastal region, where he served Kenyans with diligence.

MADE KWALE HOME

Dr Makokha settled in Kwale and made it home. With time, he spoke perfect Swahili and his English had the twang of heavy coastal Swahili influence.

While most young doctors would spend their time in Kwale seeking their escape, Dr Makokha worked hard to change the narrative.

Working as a doctor in Kwale is the most demoralising and self-defeating decision one can make. It requires an iron will. Despite years of development in the country, not much has changed for Kwale.

The county hospitals are barely transformed health centres. The vast county has a small population that is so widely distributed that health access is a myth.

Amidst crippling poverty, the residents celebrate when donkey-drawn cart ambulances are donated to the local hospitals. Healthcare is a luxury that is only sought when patients are one step away from the grave.

Yet, Dr Makokha stayed on and, not surprisingly, went on to take up a leadership post at the coast branch of the medical practitioners,  pharmacists and dentists union, when it was formed.

The soft-spoken doctor became an eloquent and fearless defender of patients’ rights and an advocate for improved healthcare.

BRAVELY FOUGHT FOR HIS PATIENTS

He bravely fought for his patients. He withstood hostility from the ruling class to agitate for better healthcare in the county.

He believed in the mantra that the buck stopped with him and he would not pass on that mantle to anyone else. He lived among the people he served and attended to them as his kin with utmost dedication.

His exemplary leadership at the doctors’ union was worth emulating. Never one to be found in front of cameras easily, his wisdom in the boardroom and ability to divorce emotion from fact was remarkable.

His respectful and calm demeanour earned him respect from political leaders in the Coast and they were happy to sit with him at the table and seek solutions to the health problems facing the region

So how is it that this gracious gentleman came to be a victim of poverty? How is it that he was taken suddenly ill and could not access the basic healthcare that he so critically needed to stay alive long enough to get to specialised services?

 In the middle of the night, a whole county health system did not have a pint of blood to keep him from bleeding out as he was transferred to a specialised facility!

The saddest part of it all was that this generous soul died because he spent hours trapped in south coast in an ambulance waiting for a ferry crossing!

He bled out waiting for the ferry schedule to be honoured. An ambulance with flashing sirens is not enough to make a ferry break the schedule to save a life.

This is Kenya! A civil servant signed up to the NHIF scheme of care, eligible for emergency evacuation by air rescue was failed by the  broken health systems he spent years of his prime fighting to right.

I don’t know how to describe the trauma his colleagues went through, watching him die in their hands from a preventable cause. Blood is priceless. You don’t know that until you need it but can’t have it. A few pints made available to him on time would have saved his life.

As we painfully lay him to rest, I pray that his death is not in vain. A key lesson to all of us to agitate for proper service delivery from our National Blood Transfusion Service.

It is abominable for a whole county to lack blood that can save a life. This happened to a doctor, how much worse is the situation for the poor Maimuna from Kinango?

Blood for transfusion is not manufactured in a laboratory. It comes from us, donated freely to those in need.

The label on the blood bag only shows its group, safety screening and expiry date. It knows no race, colour or social status. It unites us like nothing ever will.

 Play your part, donate blood regularly, and demand that the transfusion services be well coordinated, properly funded and well managed. The colour red should give hope, not signal danger!