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DP Ruto joins battle to control Kenyatta Hospital’s billions

Deputy President William Ruto has waded into the conflict pitting a section of Parliament and Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki over the suspension of Kenyatta National Hospital chief executive officer Lily Koros.

Sources told the Nation on Thursday that Mr Ruto has already spoken to several MPs angling for the impeachment of Ms Kariuki and asked them to go easy on her, promising them he is working on a solution for a conflict that threatens the unity of the ruling party.

At least four MPs, all drawn from the Kalenjin community, said they had talked to the DP over the issue but remained cagey on what exactly was agreed upon.

COLLECTING SIGNATURES

The MPs are angry at the manner Ms Kariuki is running Afya House and are collecting signatures for a petition to have her impeached.

So far more than 150 MPs from across the political divide have signed the petition.

Ms Kariuki’s troubles began when she suspended Ms Koros after a surgeon at KNH performed brain surgery on the wrong patient, with MPs accusing her of victimising the CEO for a mistake beyond her scope.

Ms Kariuki was not available for comment on Thursday.

“There is no way you can target a CEO for a mistake that happened in the theatre,” Aldai MP Cornel Serem, who is heading the petition to sack the CS, said.

“What happened in the theatre falls in the realm of professional misconduct. It should have been investigated by the doctors’ professional body.”

TRIBAL INTERESTS

Mr Serem rejected suggestions that the push for Ms Kariuki’s removal is motivated by tribal politics, saying the Kalenjin community is justified to demand that its rights are respected by State actors.

His sentiments were echoed by Bomet Central MP Ronald Tonui.

A source within the Jubilee Party told the Nation the MPs had rejected Mr Ruto’s intervention over the matter, saying it was meant to protect the CS while sacrificing Ms Koros, whose suspension they maintain is illegal and irregular.

That means the MPs have decided to take the political risk and push Ms Kariuki out, their determination borne of the feeling that Mr Ruto has not been steadfast in protecting the rights of their electorate in the public service.

They complain that many have been sacked in the last five years but the DP has either been complicit or timid.

BIG FOUR AGENDA

Kipkelion West MP Hillary Kosgei linked the removal of Ms Koros to the anticipated heavy budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Health as part of Jubilee’s Big Four agenda.

The KNH has been earmarked to get Sh15 billion under the programme.

But, beyond the political games, KNH is in a perpetually sickly state.

Underfunding, congestion, political interference, and cartels are the four main systemic issues its managers have had to contend with over the years.

Since its founding in 1901 as Native Civil Hospital, its journey has been a rollercoaster of highs and lows, with such milestones as the recent medical firsts of separating conjoined twins and reattaching a severed hand competing for the public eye with ills such as mediocrity, and disappearance of patients.

“A hospital with a bed capacity of 1,200 is now accommodating almost 3,000 patients, some of them sharing beds and others sleeping on the floor,” Dr Thuranira Kaugiria, who has been working at the facility for the last three years, said.

He says the first solution would be to decongest the facility and ease the burden it already carries.

DECONGEST

When he was appointed the Health CS in 2016, Dr Cleopa Mailu announced plans to decongest KNH by first withdrawing outpatient services so that the hospital could be left to handle in-patient and referral cases efficiently.

That never happened, but the new CS believes she can scale that mountain.

Consultant surgeon David Kimani said the hospital has a serious staffing need because registrars (master’s students) are not its employees and so they are quick to withdraw their services whenever they are singled out for blame.

The registrars are said to handle up to 85 per cent of the work at KNH without pay.

“Because of this, we have always insisted that the government reviews the memorandum of understanding between KNH and the University of Nairobi,” Dr Kimani said.

SUSPENSION

On Monday this week, registrars boycotted work at the hospital after their colleague was suspended over the botched brain surgery that sparked public outrage, forcing the hospital to suspend non-urgent medical or surgical services.

And, to make matters worse, because of its fat funding of between Sh8 billion and Sh9 billion annually, and an additional collection of an estimated Sh5 million daily from patient services, the hospital has become a fertile ground for merchants seeking the quick buck.

The vicious lobbying for contracts makes the CEO’s seat a risky one, almost in the same league with playing Russian Roulette.

And it is easy to see why: Of the 34 CEOs who have served the hospital, only three have left in clear circumstances.

Prof Julius Meme was promoted to the position of PS Health in 1999 and Mr Simeon Lesiyampe to PS Environment in 2013.

Dr Lesiyampe had replaced Dr Jotham Micheni, whose contract had expired in 2010.