In Summary

  • My own personal opinion is that doctors deserve a fair salary, way more than they are currently paid and that their conditions of work on many occasions are an outright scandal.

  • But at the same time, I know that the impunity in our hospitals is worse than in politics.

  • Your stupid mistakes kill, maim and destroy other human beings without accountability and this must end.

I have been reading, rather nostalgically, Poems from East Africa by David Cook and David Rubadiri, a poor-quality copy of which I recently bought. This was an important book in the intellectual development of East Africa and it is a pity to see such a book reproduced with errors recently introduced.

The themes of these poems captured the concerns of the generation before us – disillusionment with the corruption and dictatorship of the post-independence era, fear for the future and, often, hope.

Through the eyes of Jared Angira, Jonathan Kariara, Okot P’Bitek and so many others of that golden generation, we read not just the forlorn hope of the man asking God to send a bit of rain so that grass might grow if his house burns or the other one lamenting the neglect of his “beer horn” by wives distracted by the leopard up the Muu tree, but we also appreciate the audacious idealism of these young people and their intellectual courage in the face of disappointment.

Today, young people just want to have money, no matter how. Reading these poems and reflecting on the other literature and interactions of my age, I can see why we turned out the way we did.

And it is why I am uneasy about Kenya’s collective silence, certainly my own silence, in the face of what we know to be largely a sham.

As a traumatised victim of medical malpractice and as a journalist who has listened to many stories from hospitals, there is actually little that I would characterise as heroic about many of our doctors.

COTTON WOOL

My grandfather, Joseph M’Rimberia, died after doctors forgot cotton wool in his stomach. He was an old man, he didn’t survive the second operation to remove the filth left behind after surgery.

Recently, family friends took their 90-year-old father to hospital because he appeared anaemic. It turned out he had fallen and broken his hip.

Though he was frail from pain and a succession of stomach infections, the doctors were stopped literally inside the theatre as they prepared to conduct a hip replacement operation on him.

Recently, I met a friend at a hospital parking lot, looking very distressed. His sister-in-law had gone to hospital for the removal of a harmless, benign but uncomfortable mass on her chest.

After what appeared to be a routine, one-day operation, she started bleeding internally and was taken back to theatre.

From the theatre she was taken to the intensive care unit where she lived long enough to accumulate a massive bill: from a mainly cosmetic operation to death and destitution in a matter of weeks.

I have read and heard many stories of malpractice and the most outrageous incompetence among our doctors. I have heard of doctors who puncture patient’s stomach during endoscopies, thereby causing death.

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