Kenya: Healthcare is the new frontier for extortion


The English idiom ‘out of the frying pan into the fire’ captures the plight of most Kenyans under the Jubilee regime. Unless the corruption war succeeds, Kenyans stand the risk of swinging between the frying pan and the fury of furnace fire.

Wherever you go, public or private, the dragon of corruption is clawing its victims with merciless abandon. It is either negligence or extortionate bills. Healthcare is the new frontier for exploitation. It is vying for number one position with Kenya Power, and Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company in exploiting consumers.

Take the many cases of patients moving from the frying pan of poorly equipped public hospitals to the heat of private healthcare facilities. These facilities, spread south and west of Nairobi, and across the country, wait for opportunities to mint millions.

If you look like you can pay hospital fees, you are in trouble. If you look like you cannot pay, your are in equal trouble. Insurance companies have had to deal with ghost patients in private hospitals. The overriding ambition is to make money. Private hospitals take advantage of poor healthcare in public facilities to exploit hapless victims who land on their grounds.

A struggling young Kenyan family was served a Sh1 million bill for a pre-term infant who died 10 days after admission to a hospital located south of Nairobi. A slap in the face for the young Kenyans who hoped for healthcare with a conscience.

How much dose of drugs and care does a pre-term infant, barely 1.3kg, need to justify a Sh1 million bill in 10 days? This comes to Sh100,000 a day, or Sh4,116 per hour, even when the baby should have been sleeping. With this kind of billing, they even charge for air.

The 24-7 running bill was charged to parents who lost their secondborn. The admission gave 10 days of hope that the infant could be nursed at the facility’s incubator. The admission followed eight months of hope for a family that was excited about a secondborn. The son arrived weeks before the due date.

The Sh1 million bill is spread in nine pages of jargon and figures that conceal more than they disclose. You need a medical mind to understand most of the hidden charges. The billing flows in tens of thousands of Kenya shillings, every time a log is made.

With this kind of treatment from a facility run by doctors, and the extortionist bliss of money, one can only pray. Thank you God for sparing me the misfortune of being a mercenary doctor. These facilities put money ahead of treatment, billing without a conscience, fear or favour, reason or rhyme.

Without private insurance and health cover, the celebrated National Hospital Insurance Fund committed to pay Sh24,000 of the Sh1 million after the parents petitioned and pleaded with the public health insurer.

The bureaucracy, and the indifference at the NHIF, further casts doubt on one of the President’s Big Four agenda. Universal healthcare remains a wish for many, unless the implementers understand the pain most Kenyans go through, trying to raise monthly contributions to the NHIF.

Payments are promptly required and expected, but you have to plead for days, even kneeling before officers who imagine they are doing you a favour when you seek service from the scheme.

Forget promises of service charter and rapid response, people wait for weeks for approvals that officially should take three working days. Service delivery is reluctant, manual, and petty. Forget the NHIF’s rosy marketing that assaults you daily.

The parents of the infant were referred to the facility from a maternity hospital in Eastlands. The alternative facility has an incubator for pre-term babies. The infant’s lungs were not strong enough to breathe without aid. Once the baby could breathe, it was hoped he could also breastfeed. The young mother was on alert to the call of maternal duty.

Hope crashed, with a callous slap of a huge, unconscionable bill. The case has been presented to the Kenya Medical Association for professional interpretation. There is no other way to describe this experience, other than corruption without borders. This is one of the many experiences of suffering Kenyans.



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