A SURGERY THAT NEVER WAS: My sad memories of Kenyatta National Hospital

East and Central Africa’s largest health facility, Kenyatta National Hospital has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The referral hospital, once the face of Kenya’s exemplary medical sector, is in the middle of a storm after stories circulated online in which, young mothers, who had just delivered via Caesarean section, were allegedly being raped by morgue attendants and cleaners at the middle of the night, as the helpless women walked two floors down, to breastfeed their newborns domiciled at the ground floor.

I would like to avoid commenting on this particular story for now, as an investigation has been instituted.

Instead, I would like to focus on a different angle; the actual sad state of KNH.

And this I will do by narrating a sad personal story that shall forever remain embedded in my mind.

The year was 2015. Around January or thereabout (what a coincidence!). I was a finalist at The University of Nairobi and a student leader serving as chair of Gikuyu, Embu and Meru (GEMA) students association at the institution.

Then one afternoon, I received information that one of my best GEMA foot soldiers, Washington Mwangi Maina aka Vaita, had been hit by a Kangemi bus at the University Way, around midday, and had been rushed to Kenyatta National Hospital.

KNH was definitely a natural choice to take Vaite to, since the facility has had a decades long partnership with UoN. The hospital actually hosts UoN’s medical school referred to as KNH campus.

And so, I fast linked up with Vaite’s best friend Samuel Kamiri and student leaders Mike Kuria and Moses Kariuki, and off we went to KNH.

But it is when we got to the hospital
that I started realizing all not was well. To begin with, even after he had been taken there hours before, with fatal injuries, Vaite still lay in some waiting room at the emergency section, unattended to.

We thus looked for some attendant, identified ourselves and politely asked why Vaite was still unattended to, after all that time, despite him being unconscious. And for heaven sake, he was no stranger. He was a UoN student!

As usual, the fellows there started taking us round in circles referring to this or that other officer.

At that point, we got furious and it is only when we created a scene, SONU style, that Vaite was eventually admitted; and even that took hours.

When Vaite was safely on a bed, and after we got assurances that he was now being taken care of, we left believing all was well…

The following day, doctors reported that Vaite was scheduled for an urgent surgery.

We thought that this was progress but it seems we were wrong. The surgery would be postponed each day without concrete reasons being given.

Meanwhile, the fellows kept on administering painkillers on him in the name of treatment. (How I wish we knew what exactly was happening).

By the grace of God, Vaite regained consciousness, I think on the second day or so, could talk, appeared to be recovering well and again the doctors promised that a surgery had been scheduled.

Sadly, Vaite would eventually pass on at midday, in the presence of relatives and fellow comrades, days after he had suffered the accident, still waiting for a surgery.

No one ever told us why the surgery never happened.

Just like that, mismanagement and neglect had claimed yet another brilliant soul, who had beaten all the odds by studying in a village day secondary school, to score grade A-.

I am not saying that I am 100% sure the surgery would have saved Vaite’s life. Nooo.. Not at all… After all, it is God who gives and takes life. But who knows what would have happened if the surgery took place?

Later on, as I read Vaite’s eulogy during the emotion laden funeral service at their home in Ndia, Kirinyaga County, I got overwhelmed. I almost abandoned it half way.

I was actually bitter.

The hope of an entire village that was gathered there on that day, had been dimmed by some fellows sitting comfortably at KNH, drawing fat salaries, oblivious of how their carelessness was destroying the future of our country.

So folks, all said and done, the disaster at KNH is not just the rape cases.


It is bigger than that….

KNH no longer betters the health of its patients; it is doing the exact opposite.

That hospital is one institution that we need to close down completely and start all over again.


Go well General Vaite…Till we meet again…… Generals don’t die; they just fade away…. For you I pen down this piece…..