I was six and had just joined class one. My grandmother was the healthiest old woman I knew. She didn’t walk around with a stick to support her back and when we went to visit her, she seemed to have no trouble making us meals or climbing the steady hill that led to the church.
One fateful morning, my mother had to rush upcountry because my grandmother was suddenly ill. That evening when I came back from school, my grandmother lay in bed in the guest bedroom. I went in to greet her but she did not look like her jolly old self. I did not quite understand what had taken away the dancing from her eyes or why her lips seemed to stretch painfully in what she must have intended to be a smile.
I knew something wasn’t well. She was taken to the hospital later that night. She never returned. I attended her funeral a few days later.
When I grew older, I learnt that she could have been saved. That the hospital did not have a specialist and the nurse who was on night duty did not know what exactly to do.
Very often, a member of my family or a colleague at work is unwell and they have to be admitted at the hospital. I have never come to terms with the fact that we have to pool money to pay their hospital bill. If I fell sick, I would very much appreciate it if my family and colleagues came in to help me offset the very often exorbitant bills.
But must hospital bills be always unaffordable? Why does the national health insurance fund seem unaffordable? And why aren’t citizens guaranteed of the highest level of medical services in government institutions. Surely, a time should come, and so soon, when medical care is affordable, when we don’t have to hold harambees for someone in hospital, when a person admitted at Kenyatta Hospital should feel they could get more specialized health care in the adjacent Nairobi Hospital.
And now, the doctors are striking…
It should be well understood that the doctors are fighting for their rights, and not privileges. Unlike our honorable members in the August House, doctors don’t decree how much they earn. How dishonorable is our government if it cannot pay its health workers? But then, how do we expect those who control government systems to know the dishonor in not paying health workers when they seek their treatment abroad?
BY SASHA MUSIGI
This article appears in our weekly digital law magazine, The Deuteronomy Vol 9, Issue 2 of December 9th, 2016
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