For the last 50 days, the Kenyan public health system has been at a standstill. This is the anatomy of a health crisis, as told by the doctors in the trenches. Republished with permission from Courage Stories.
In 2013, the government and doctors signed an agreement to repair the health system. The century-old system had survived with only minor upgrades, and as minimal investment as possible.
Despite a growing number of public health needs, the health system remained stagnant. It barely made the news except for massive procurement scandals. In the trenches, doctors and clinicians lacked even the simplest of tools to get the job done.
Supported by everything from taxes to donor funding, the health system should have done right by its primary employees and the people for whom it actually exists. Instead, massive amounts of money found its way into other places, and doctors continuously found themselves taking existential risks on the job
It got serious. It got ridiculous. No one seemed to notice.
Each small mistake, each small oversight, cost lives. It wasn’t a far-fetched butterfly effect. People died of preventable diseases and conditions as those whose work it was to protect them refused to do the right thing.
If losing patients wasn’t enough, doctors became prisoners of conscience to a profession they had given their lives to. It seemed that, since it was a calling, being a doctor was also a death sentence.
Was it a narrative about money?
Was it a narrative about life, and its worth?
Was it a narrative about common good and public goods?
Was it a narrative at all?
What do you do when the system is rigged to fail?
When you are continuously reminded that your greatest act as a patriotic citizen is to vote, not to demand for better services.
It was a healthcare system in nothing but name. A black hole for lives and sanity.
It wasn’t a health system designed to work, and no one who took it over tried to make it anything else. Voters before patients, that was the narrative. Your vote before your health, because your politician can come to your medical fund Harambee.
Where the cost of public goods is too expensive even for the people providing it.
If it’s not the little sacrifices to stay afloat, it’s a rather unfortunate opportunity to determine who lives and who dies.