By David G Maillu
It is only when African politicians die abroad or epidemics like the haemorrhagic fever called Ebola breaks out that attention is paid to the failed health systems across Africa.
Here in Kenya, Nderitu Gachagua, the Governor of Nyeri County in the central region has just died in London, Britain, where he had gone for treatment. Muhammadu Buhari, the President of Nigeria, is also in London undergoing treatment.
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As I write, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is in Singapore for treatment while a while ago Kenya’s Deputy President, William Ruto, was in Europe for medical attention.
It has almost become a tradition for senior African politicians to be treated and even die in foreign hospitals. This is not only an indictment of the political system but also an indication that hospitals across the continent are not up to standard.
This reminds me of an article titled ‘BBC Africa Debate to Discuss Failed Health Systems in Africa’ that I read in ArtMatters.Info a while back. The article was written at the height of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia in West Africa in 2014.
The article, that publicised a continental debate that was to be aired on British multimedia broadcaster, BBC World Service, says, “The Ebola epidemic has exposed the fragility of public health systems . . . with healthcare workers dying alongside their patients as they lack basic necessities. The epidemic also has exposed weak leadership from governments across the region, which have been slow to act, and revealed a potentially dangerous lack of trust from their electorates.”
That was three years ago. In West Africa.
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Back in Kenya in 2017, all top government officials including the President, seek medical treatment abroad while Kenya proudly talks about having the national teaching and referral Kenyatta National Hospital (former King George VI Hospital). It beats reason that Kenyan officials who run the government, including the President, should not be treated at the Kenyatta National Hospital not only for the sake of promoting patriotism and national pride, boosting confidence in our local medics and boosting the economy of the country by injecting the resources spent abroad in our own health facilities.
What these senior politicians are saying is that the medical service in local hospitals, including Kenyatta National Hospital, is awfully primitive and not worth writing about. This is not only disgraceful and disgusting but also irresponsible of the government! It is as shameful as hiring foreign military forces (read, mercenaries) to fight on our behalf while we maintain soldiers in our own military barracks.
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It is actually the Kenyan government which is had been engaged in the process of abusing and degrading health services from its national hospitals.
If the Kenyan government was really responsible, by now it would have used its might to equip and modernize public health facilities like Kenyatta National Hospital and thereafter made it mandatory for all government officials, including the President, to seek treatment from public hospitals. In fact, the government of Kenya could be accused of deliberately running down public health institutions: it has little respect for doctors who have been on strike since December 2016; hospitals have few functioning medical equipment, drugs are unavailable while we hear that Sh5 Billion was stolen by health officials who are yet to be investigated and punished.