Cry, Our Beloved KNH

Kenya has many public institutions that deserve accolades for the distinguished dedication in offering services to Kenyans. Tragically, there is one institution which deserves to be celebrated but is often castigated with the harshest of words.

Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), the lifeline for majority of Kenyans who depend on the public health system, is always on the receiving end of criticism.

Granted, KNH has had its failings. There have been cases of negligence, staff who are utterly heartless and systems that do not function properly. Despite its shortcoming, it is important we take a moment, nay say a prayer, for KNH because the hospital is itself ailing and in need of intervention.

In March, the level of pressure that KNH has been operating in came into the limelight when its only two overworked radiotherapy machines broke down. Due to the worsening crisis of cancer in the country, the machines are forced to run non-stop. While each machine is designated to handle between eight to 10 patients a day, each was handling up to 150 patients due to the overwhelming number of patients in need of treatment.

The situation is not dire at the cancer unit only. The hospital is experiencing congestion in all its units considering it attends to an average of 600,000 outpatient cases and about 100,000 inpatient cases annually. Despite the large numbers, which have been worsened by the chaos being witnessed in the counties after health services were devolved, the hospital operates on an annual budget of under Sh5 billion.

In all fairness, Kenyans – and particularly the government and money-minting corporate world – should be ashamed for failing to support KNH accordingly to enable the hospital offer much better services to the majority. Granted, the cluster of top government officials and corporate honchos do not depend on KNH. They can afford the best healthcare money can buy in private hospitals in the country and abroad.

That notwithstanding, the government has a duty to pay much keen interest on KNH and pump resources for the hospital to invest in modern machines, more facilities and more nurses and doctors. If not for anything, they should consider that KNH is the only hospital that handles most of the emergency cases, for instance when terrorists strike – a ripple effect of other government agencies failing to do their jobs effectively.

While the government might argue that it has limited resources and must cater for other pressing needs, it beats logic to see the corporate world not bothered with the plight of KNH despite brandishing corporate social responsibility manuals that proclaim health is one of their key areas of support.

Is it morally right for companies to report billions in profitability, like the case with banks raking about Sh100 billion cumulatively, yet when KNH announces that its needs a mere Sh2.7 billion for a well-equipped cancer centre none can blink? If Kenya is a society that still proclaims to harbour some sense of humanity consciousness, time has come to rally behind KNH.

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