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Focusing on healthcare would easily cement legacy for Uhuru

Sunday February 10 2019

Mbagathi District Hospital

Unoccupied beds at Mbagathi District Hospital in Nairobi on Monday, February 04, 2019. Most patients have been transferred to private hospital as nurses in public hospital began their countrywide strike. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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The state of healthcare in Kenya is deplorable and continues to be so despite the ‘Big Four Agenda’ having the service as a pillar.

Kenyans still struggle to access healthcare — not only basic healthcare but health coverage in its totality.

This is not criticism of the Big Four but the counties dragging their feet in enhancing healthcare at the grassroots.

We keep hearing about hospitals with poor mortuary facilities and bodies just left to rot. And if we still talk of patients who sleep on the floor, share beds or ill-afford basic medication, then we have no healthcare to speak of.


Al Jazeera recently showed a documentary where poor pregnant Kenyan women had to bribe clinicians so that they can be fast-tracked to avoid a still birth. These women keep their foetuses healthy for nine months but lose babies to human greed and narcissism in our hospitals.

I remember being asked for a bribe in a public hospital so my brother could have a POP cast put on his broken leg. I thought then it was strange to have to bribe a clinician with duty of care. I am sad to hear these things are still going on, and they can only happen in a society devoid of compassion.

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho flew his musician friend out of the country for treatment, so we recently heard. Mr Joho was, reportedly, in a private hospital when he was taken ill after that episode.

Prof Anyang Nyong’o, the governor of Kisumu, has been out of the country quite a few times to seek treatment. He recently spent a few days, at a Kisumu private hospital when he was taken ill while attending a presidential function.

Opposition chief and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga took his daughter abroad for life-saving treatment.

Members of the Senate and National Assembly, as told by their own fellow MP, have recently been scouring India, seeking treatment for cancer and other lifestyle diseases.

The question on my mind is, how do these leaders feel when they get themselves and their families the best healthcare at the behest of the poor they purportedly serve? It appears we elect people to build on their egos, health and bank balance than work hard to improve on service delivery.


Improving hospitals does not mean turning up once for a photo op to show us the latest equipment corruptly bought. It is about commitment to continued provision of healthcare for all, including you, the politician, and your family. It is insensitive to gloat about your best healthcare when voters are dying for lack of care.

Great template

The United Kingdom’s NHS is a great template to learn from on how national security contribution devoid of corruption can create a healthcare system fit for all. Unless we improve on healthcare, queues in public hospitals will get longer and corruption will continue to strangle the sector.

If President Uhuru Kenyatta is, indeed, serious about healthcare, he must start by changing the mindset of those whom he expects to deliver on his agenda.

If there is an executive order needed from him right now, it is that no public servant or politician should use private services for education and healthcare.

Public hospitals are not bad because there is no funding but because leaders mandated to make them function have no care for the ordinary recipient of the services. I don’t think leaders could claim to empathise with the poor while convalescing in private hospital suites attempting to evade death, which is guaranteed to come to all anyway.

Lack of support for public healthcare undermines progress in the industry. We give opportunities to other countries to prosper their healthcare through all the fees leaders pay abroad when we should be improving our own.


Lack of proper healthcare exacerbates the poverty that Big Four is trying to fight. Family resources are depleted by private hospitals that we are all forced to turn to due to our leaders’ neglect of public hospitals. NHIF should not be paying millions of shillings to private hospitals. Instead, the government should use the money to increase capacity and make public hospitals fit for the 21st century.

Countries with good healthcare have been proven to have strong economies. Kenya has the potential for economic advancement if only it secured its human capital through better, affordable healthcare.

President Kenyatta needs to realise that it would be easier to concentrate on improving healthcare than being spread too thin on the ground chasing all four of his development agendas in three years and leave behind half-finished jobs.

Better healthcare would mean that, eventually, the other Big Four agendas will fall in place because the nation will no longer need to choose between prophylaxis and porridge as they can access free healthcare. They can comfortably have both without auctioning their homes.

Forget all the other lofty plans: A healthy nation would be the best Uhuru legacy.

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected], @kdiguyo