The damage that has happened in these fifty three days has been immense; unfortunately, it is a damage that cannot be undone. In fifty three days, women have died while bringing life to the world; children have died too young, patients in stage one of cancer have progressed to stage two. Diabetic and hypertensive patients have missed their follow-up clinics; they have probably missed their drugs too. Patients who were to undergo elective surgeries in the past two months have had to live with their fibroids, large prostates and other ailments for two more months. Because doctors have been out of hospitals, many women have had to deliver at home for fear of the high cost of service in private hospitals. In fifty two days, we have succeeded in increasing the number of orphans in Kenya and enriching private hospitals. We have increased the number of brain-damaged children, and increased the number of widows and widowers.
Sadly, the world has not come to a standstill. The sun continues to rise and set each day. The wind continues to carry the dust with it as it blows. Everyone is going on with their lives, each thinking of their own trouble. Not many have paused to think about the doctors’ strike, except the doctors and the sick, their relatives too. They are the ones who have had to spend all their savings, sell the maize they were saving for the drought, and borrow, to pay for hospital bills. Cancer patients have had to waste away at home, feeling their pain to the bone, dying slowly, and surely.
Unfortunately, the government has done nothing much to end the suffering of Kenyans. (Okay it has been paying thirty six bloggers to create twitter hashtags and demean doctors). Our political leaders are oblivious of the situation in public hospitals. They have no idea how a ward in a public hospital looks or smells like. That is why they can’t see issues from a doctor’s or a patient’s view point. Our leaders are confident that they will never set foot in public hospitals; not in life, and never in death. They have looted enough money to enable them fly South, each time they have common cold, an abrasion on the nose, teeth that need cleaning and twisted balls (I hear there is a member of parliament who suffered torsion courtesy of another honorable member). They have enough to have their bodies flown back to Kenya when they die, enough to buy space in one of the fridges at the Lee Funeral Home. This way, they will never find themselves side to side with us in the led, not even in death. The government is terming doctors’ demands unreasonable, unachievable citing lack of money and yet the cabinet secretary of finance stated the real reason why they don’t want to honor what they said in paper in national television, “if you pay public doctors that amount, there will be influx of doctors from private hospitals and that will be the death of private hospitals”. – ROTICH CS FINANCE. These politicians have stolen for their children, grand-children and great grand-children up to the tenth generation while poor Kenyans continue to languish in want. Apparently, they are not satisfied-yet; they have businesses that must make profits hence the unfortunate remark by the cabinet secretary, so dis- honorable!
A ward in a public hospital is basically a little hell; those who have been unfortunate enough to be admitted in public hospitals can bear me witness. Wards are not partitioned, not even by see through curtains! A patient on one end of a ward can see without straining the goings on in the other end of the ward. Mycobacterium tuberculosis gladly moves from patient to patient. Patients have to share beds, sleeping two mostly and sometimes three in not so large beds, while their care-takers spend nights on floors. Sometimes, patients have to sleep on cardboard boxes with nothing to cover them, not even tattered bed-sheets. When one patient dies, all patients in a ward are forced to watch as mortuary attendants load them into a carrier and wheel them away into the cold room. Patients have had to sleep with bleeding patients. They have had to endure the smell of rotten or rotting flesh, urine and poop. You walk into a public hospital knowing you will share a bed with a stranger, you will strip in front of many eyes and there is nothing you can do about it.
Heavens know that doctors have tried their level best to work with what is available; given their all to do this, worked for forty eight hours straight, with no sleep because public hospitals are grossly understaffed. Doctors have tried all manner of improvisation, using feeding tubes as catheter sand gloves as urine bags, giving pain meds to patients who need antibiotics but can’t afford. Doctors have had to watch patients die slowly and painfully knowing they could help, but can’t. Our government has failed the doctors, it has failed ninety nine percent of the Kenyans who can’t afford “the billing machines” that are the private hospitals. The government is playing politics with healthcare and that is gross. Instead of increasing the bed capacity of our hospitals, employing more doctors, more specialists, instead of ensuring that hospitals have basic drugs, they are busy channeling money into useless projects, talk of misplaced priorities!
Medicine is a passion, and it is this passion that has kept doctors in Kenya, it is passion that keeps them on their feet for eighteen hours. It is passion that makes a doctor risk their life at three in the morning to go help a dying drunkard. It is passion that keeps a doctor working even after pricking themselves, taking ARVs for a month and suffering headache, diarrhea, jaundice, pruritus. Passion keeps a doctor in their feet for three hours, bagging a half a kilogram neonate, because they too matter. Sadly, passion is not edible, it cannot pay fees, and it cannot be traded for food. It doesn’t buy coffins for their dead. Doctors too have bills to pay, relatives to support, bodies to clothe, tummies to feed.
Maybe we should all try their shoes for a mile. Then we will be shocked to learn that medicine is not a white collar job, there are lots of blood involved, amnion, bone chips, urine and so much more. They spent their youth hopping from class, to the wards then to the hostel, every day for six years so they could become doctors. Doctors recognize depression in their patients but fail to recognize it within themselves, they have become insomniacs, because duty has always demanded, have seen too many deaths, much more than they can effectively handle and remain sane, are unable to take their own advice, but drown their sorrows in alcohol. Doctors render services they cannot afford (strange right?). They die poor; of friends and money, miss the mile stones of their children, and their homes are cold in the verge of breaking. Sadly, doctors are strangers to their own children, their relatives, to themselves too (yes I know, I am also shaking my head). It is no wonder doctors are not entitled to entertainment allowance but our politicians are! They have been undeservedly blamed for deaths, termed weak when they show emotion, heartless when they don’t. Doctors have been doing their best.
The government should wake up and work. It should employ more doctors hence reduce the waiting hours for patients, train specialists and ensure complicated cases are dealt with ASAP. The government should pay doctors well hence ensuring they remain in Kenya! It is the work of the government to buy drugs for hospitals, enough gloves, catheters, feeding tubes. Surely doctors are not magicians?
If we can manage position 145 internationally as far as corruption is concerned then surely we as a country shouldn’t have a problem implementing the 2013 CBA as it is. Doctors shouldn’t be blamed for a patient who died of anemia because there were no reagents to screen donated blood (happens more often than you can imagine), they shouldn’t be held responsible for that brain damaged child they couldn’t help because there was no oxygen in a referral hospital! They shouldn’t be blamed for that child who contracted HIV after rape because there was no PEP in the hospital. It is exhausting knowing you will be blamed for using too many gloves, honestly they are not edible. Those looks patients give doctors when they miss theatre six times in a row are not sad, they are worse than sad, and it is really unhealthy( suicidal even) running around in a full bladder, missing meals, barely sleeping because the government can’t employ enough doctors.